Saturday, August 19, 2006

This is What's Happening!

I have been a fan of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar from almost the first time I heard it so many, many moons ago. I've seen the film a number of times (most recently in a stunning letterboxed version on the Sundance Channel) and on the stage four or five times as well (once with Carl Anderson as Judas and once in an absolutely brilliant outdoor production at the Universal Amphitheater.

The Universal show was produced by Tom O’Horgan who did the Broadway production, and the stage set consisted of three stone outcroppings backed by an 80-foot tall cross draped in cloth. On closer examination, the two small stone groups near the sides of the stage were gigantic hands, palm up with fingers reaching for the sky and the large stone structure in the middle was Jesus's face screaming. When Judas dieed, he stood in Jesus's mouth, which flamed bright red and descended into hell screaming "You have murdered me! Murdered me!"

Pilot reigned from a throne of human skulls that was frantically whipped around the stage while he laughed manically. Herod was wheeled onto the stage in a contraption made out of nude alabaster manikins, whose arms raised on que to allow the white-suited Herod his entrance.

For the crucifixion Jesus and his disciples climbed the uncloaked cross and, as Jesus got into position, the disciples made a halo out of their open hands surrounding his head that glowed in the spotlights. As they played John 19:41 the cross began to slowly move back from the stage until by the end of the song it had disappeared in the darkness.

A spectacular production (O’Horgan is the guy who originally wanted to crucify Jesus on the handlebars of a Harley, but was talked out of it) of a spectacular opera. As much as I enjoyed the "spectacle" of that show, I think I would have loved this one even more...

Last week, August 13 to be exact, there was a one-time only benefit production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles. Oh, how I wanted to go. Here was the cast:

Jesus - Ted Neeley (the Jesus from the film, now 62 and beginning his farewell tour of JCS)
Judas - Ben Vereen (who played Judas in the original Broadway production [Carl Anderson who played Judas in the film died in 2004])
Mary Magdalene - Yvonne Elliman (who played Mary on the Original London Cast album, in the original Broadway production and in the film)
Pontius Pilate - Barry Dennen (who played Pilot on the Original London Cast album, in the original Broadway production and in the film)
King Herod - Jack Black (star of School of Rock, King Kong, etc.)
Simon Zealotes - Clint Holmes

Oh how I wanted to go, but the tickets were a little steep.

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