Monday night I went with Frank to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Keller Auditorium. Lots of fun. It's one of those family favorites - we watched the 1973 film over and over - so for me, just hearing the opening strains of the overture fills me with a particular love - kind of like when Mom goes to see a Star Wars movie and In a Galaxy Far, Far Away can make her eyes fill up.
When I saw Jesus Christ Superstar live with Carl Anderson a number of years ago (his last year) and did the wait-at-the-backdoor thing and did meet him, I stuck my hand out and said, "I've been waiting for this since I was eight years old." And he acted touched and kissed me on the cheek.
Monday night it was Ted Neely as Jesus - very exciting too. His voice has gotten deeper, has a bit more weight to it now. He's always gotten the "he's whiney" thing, I think, and though I never had a problem with it, I believe the years have taken away a bit of thinness in that voice. Makes that very particular sound he has stand out while giving it a touch more depth. Early on in the show, he hit a high note in his head voice and I thought, oh no, can he not get to that shrill anymore? Then the temple scene, and holy god, there it was - and powerful!
I had to embarrass myself and do that thing at the end where you whooooooo from your seat.
Let's see, other thoughts. I thought Pilate's Dream was especially nice. Understated. And the Judas was very good. At intermission Frank said, 'he's sort of "doing" Carl Anderson, and I have to say, I like that.' He wasn't aping Anderson, but there were a lot of similar interpretations, and I'm with Frank: ahhhhhh. I had to adjust my mind - I always have to adjust my mind for a different Judas - but John Twiford did a powerful job. Herod was quite funny. And his Herodettes - funny.
Had Ted Neely not been so good, what they did during the overture might have ruined the show for me a little bit. One of the wonderful things about the Jesus Christ Superstar telling of the story is the ambiguity as to whether or not he's God or the Son of God. So when they had Jesus perform a miracle and bring someone back from the dead to open the show, it undercut that open question - and undercut that first number, Heaven On Their Minds, which to me is such an amazing song, and such an important part of the whole. Likewise when Jesus
[spoiler - in case someone might happen upon this little post before going to see the production somewhere else in the country...]
rises off the cross and ascends into the rafters, into heaven, at the very end. A nice bit of special effect, but not the kind of interpretation I want to see of this particular story.
And then to drop a banner of the shroud of Turin like one of those cheesy American flags at the end of a Shrine circus... oh no. No, no.
Another odd thing: Jesus looking up over the audience to somewhere on the theater ceiling and talking to God through the whole show. First time he did it, I had this crazy thought that Neely was trying to cue a spotlight operator to, I don't know, get the light out of his face or something. Then I realized, no, Jesus was having conversations with God. First it was curious, then distracting. I told Frank, in a way, maybe it helps balance the whole raise-a-guy-from-the-dead opening, because when he talks to God, Jesus looks kind of like a crazy guy. But yes, overall, I found it distracting.
Oh, and OK. Jesus died for a long. long. time. His performance on the cross was great. Fiendish. Disturbing. And I liked that they added in the whole "I thirst" vinegar-on-the-sponge thing and the sword-into-the-side thing. But wow. He died so long it started to get comical. Especially when you finally thought he was dead and the orchestra was playing the sublimely mournful John 19:41, and suddenly he heaves out yet another dying breath.
But wonderful performances and some great interpretations - the leper scene - the Herod scene. We had a lovely evening. Makes me want to go watch the 1973, of course - and the commentary in which Ted Neely talks all nostalgic and sweet about that time in his life.
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