Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jesus Christ Superstar

Last night Jessica and I went to see "Jesus Christ Superstar", the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. It starred Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the movie that came out in 1973. I was really excited to see this because several years ago I saw a production that starred Carl Anderson, who had played Judas in the same film, and he was absolutely amazing. (In said production, Jesus was played by Sebastian Bach, who was the lead singer for Skid Row, and he played Jesus like a guy in a hair metal band. Surprise, surprise)

I was disappointed in Ted Neeley's performance, although in retrospect I guess I shouldn't have been. He played Jesus in the movie that came out 35 years ago, and I think he had played the part on stage before that. So the guy has been playing this same role for nearly four decades, and it clearly shows. He knows every word and note by heart, and I think he was just going through the motions. 

Neeley is a ridiculously talented rock singer. When he hits the high notes he blows every eighties rocker off the map. But going through the motions the way he did, seeming kind of bored with the part, made the character of Jesus seem very etherial, almost like a divine ghost inhabiting a human shell. The strength of JCS is that it reminds us just how human Jesus really was. The scene in the second act where Jesus is praying in Gethsemane just before his arrest is one of the most powerful pieces of musical theatre I've ever seen, and when it's really performed and not just sung, no one in the audience is unmoved, regardless of their religious affiliation.

So although this wasn't the best performance of JCS I've ever seen, it's still an amazing show that I never tire of, and I'm glad I went.

1 comment:

TN Rambler said...

We saw the production in Chattanooga on Thursday night. I had the same impression. We had also seen Neely in the role at TPAC sometime in the early to mid 90's and I remember it being much more energetic.