Jesus Christ Superstar rates as one of my top five favorite all-time stage musicals. In fact, it is my Number One favorite.
Recently, I reviewed a production of JC Superstar staged by the Marshall Civic Players (MCP):
"Superstar is Flawed Production."
Oh, yes, if you did not know this about me, I write theatre reviews for the Battle Creek Enquirer.
I did not give the MCP's production of JC Superstar a very good review. Though for me, when I criticize flaws and poor choices by a theatrical company, the actual criticisms are limited and mixed with plenty of praise, and the review always ends with a call to action, urging the reader to go see the show and support the live theater.
And yet, audiences are not filling theaters as they had been a decade ago, let alone decades farther back. Every year, I seem to have the same conversation with Brendan Ragotzy of the Barn Theatre about the dwindling audience and the expense of running a professional summer stock theater. It was not that long ago that the Barn had to adjust its schedule to allow for an extended run of a hot show with audiences packing its house. Not so in recent years. The Barn even had to close for one year to recoup lost revenue and regroup.
As for my recent review, was my objectivity affected by my love for Jesus Christ Superstar? Possibly, somewhat, though I think I gave the show a fair assessment and loads of praise along with some key criticisms. Do I bring preconceived notions and expectations to a viewing of Jesus Christ Superstar? YES. I expect the part of Judas, the show's key role, to be sung in its original arrangement, someone with a high range. And though the actor playing Judas need not be African-American in every production (despite the original Broadway production and film castings), the juxtaposition of a black Judas and a white Jesus--especially given the skin pigments people probably actually had in that part of the Middle East 2000+ years ago--creates an interesting dynamic on many levels.
|Carl Anderson who played Judas in the 1973 film.|
Today, Thursday June 20th, I return to Marshall to see Sondheim's Company but not at the MCP's venue but at a place called the Great Escape Stage Company. I am attending with a friend who I made through reviewing, despite some criticisms, which are now water under that oft-mentioned bridge: Gregg Morris.
Back to JC Superstar.
|This is the LP I am talking about: with shrink wrap!|
Though the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice rock opera hit Broadway in 1971, it did not reach the consciousness of a young Michigan child (that's me) until the film was released in 1973. The scuttlebutt at the time, as so many gossips were spread solely by word of mouth back then since the Internet had not yet been invented, was that in the title song, "Superstar," Judas sings: "Jesus Christ Superstar, who the Hell do you think you are?"
Being told this by "offended" classmates, I begged my parents for the record album. At this time, there were three albums: the original double album from 1970 (released before the Broadway production launched), the double LP movie soundtrack, and a single LP of selections from the rock opera. My parents bought me the less expensive single, selected LP, and I listened intensely. Remember, we did not have the Internet to look up lyrics transcribed by other people (who seem to have a lot of time for hobbies like transcribing lyrics for the Internet.... says the kettle calling the pot "black"). I could not be sure of what Judas was singing, but I was pretty sure he was not singing: "who the Hell do you think you are?" All I could be certain of was the line ended in "you are." Later, I would learn that the line is "Do you think you're what they say you are?"
I used to dance and sing these lyrics with the microphone and toy speaker my parents gave me for Christmas, often in the outfit pictured here (right).
Other music in rotation at this time: The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch, David Cassidy, Michael Jackson, the Jackson Five, Josie and the Pussycats, Tony DeFranco and the DeFranco Family, Bobby Sherman, Donny Osmond, the Osmonds, Marie and Jimmy Osmond, The Harlem Globetrotters Theme Song, and Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.
LAST COMMENT ON JC SUPERSTAR: Once I went to college, I met many people also fascinated by Jesus Christ Superstar. I discussed launching a production of the show and fiddling with gender. My friend Elaine Klein would have made a great Judas (and loved the role as much as I did). How would the show's dynamic change if Judas was a woman? Or what if Jesus was played by a woman? What if the all the roles were played by women except Judas? And so on, the gender variations are fascinating and would open up all sorts of interpretations.
1. Jesus Christ Superstar
2. A Chorus Line
Second five (to round out the top ten)
6. Sweeney Todd
7. Forever Plaid
9. Rocky Horror Show
10. The Who's Tommy
Notables that I like but do not make my top ten: The Magic Show; Once Upon a Mattress; West Side Story; Pippin; The Fantastiks; Little Shop of Horrors; Avenue Q; Wicked; The Lion King; Baby; I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change; and the 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee.
Singin' in the Rain is among my favorite movies of all time and a great musical, but since it started in film and this is a stage musical list, I left it off. I also happen to love the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that's a story for another time.
Though I have seen Jesus Christ Superstar many times, I am most fond of seeing the Ted Neeley Farewell Tour" or the "New A.D. Tour" September 23, 2006 at the Wharton Center in East Lansing, Michigan.
I have heard of the 1994 version featuring the Indigo Girls, but I have not seen or listened to recordings.
- chris tower - 1306.20 - 9:15