Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jesus Christ Superstar

This past Saturday I went to "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Overture Center. When I as in fourth grade, I saw the show for the first time at the Civic Center. Ever since I was little my parents had taken me to musicals, plays, and ballets. So the arts have always been ingrained in me and I have a great appreciation for them. I can remember singing the songs for days after first seeing JCS, never having heard the music previously. Shortly after, my mom rented the original 1973 movie starring Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson. Watching that movie now, I'm sure would make me laugh because it involves hippies in bell bottoms dancing around in the desert.

Then Easter weekend in 2000 my mom and I were in Chicago and I was flipping through stations and came across a brand new version. This version was updated- new clothes, new set, and a whole new take. Once again, I couldn't get the songs out of my head! My favorite song from that version is "Simon Zealots" sung by Tony Vincent (swoon!) followed closely by "Garden of Gethsemane/I Only Want to Say".

Fast forward nearly 9 years and I find out the show is coming to Madison. I was excited! The night of the show I found out that the role of Jesus was being played by Ted Neeley- the ORIGINAL Jesus. I was thinking- what?? This guy has to be OLD! (he is 60 now). As soon as the overture started I really didn't care. Andrew Lloyd Webber is genious for making a rock opera about the last 7 days of the life of Jesus and for humanizing Judas. But I couldn't get over the fact that the title character, who is supposed to be 33, was being played by a 60 year old man.

If you've ever seen the show or heard the music, I'm sure you'd be surprised by this. The vocal range that the actor must possess is just enormous. Going into falsetto, he sings notes reaching a C2. Surprisngly, and with some effort, Neeley was able to hit these notes. Although his songs were sung at a slower tempo and somewhat behind the beat, you could look past it because, hey, he was the original. When he first entered the stage the crowd even began cheering and clapping. They were excited just to see him.

The crucifixion seen was a little difficult for me to stomach. Here is a 60 year old man in basically what looked like a diaper, half naked, hanging on the cross. It just seemed odd to me. But the scene was extremely emotional, and I think the fact that it made me uncomfortable served its purpose.

I wonder if the actor who plays Jesus (in any production of the show) feels a spiritual connection, or a strengthening in their faith. Is there any apprehension for an actor who is not religious or Christian?


Jesus Christ Superstar 2009 Tour