Last night, I went to the opening of Jesus Christ Superstar. While anxiously waiting to get into the theater, a slew of theater types gawked at the red carpet featuring unrecognizable people, except Carmella Soprano and the blond in Smash. I thought back to 1971 when I first saw the play. What was groundbreaking about the show then, and in fact still now, is that Jesus Christ Superstar is not your run of the mill theater going entertainment, which plagues much of the Great White Way. THANK GOD. And when I say God, I may even be referring to Jesus Christ himself, because this production has me revisiting my whole Jesus Christ consciousness. The poignant final scene had me sobbing at the unfortunate injustice that befell the King of the Jews, which he is rarely referred to these days. In fact, when you watch in awe as the story unfolds, we see very little in common with Jesus and those that take his name in vain. Naturally, I am speaking of Right Wing Republican Zealots, who act more like Judas and the mob who turned on Jesus in the end. Hypocrites, the whole lot of them.
The thing about Broadway musicals is that unless we are talking about Spring Awakening, much of the Broadway product sounds like that horrendous score of the television show Smash. The word “number” should not apply to music, but to accounting. In the case of Jesus Christ Superstar, the rock opera is so fresh, that you can’t imagine why more shows like this are not readily produced. Like the cronyism in politics, there is cronyism in theater and their producers, which probably resembles the cronyism of the Oscars voting pool. All I know is that Jesus Christ Superstar is something extraordinarily special. The performances of the lead men, Paul Nolan as Jesus and Judas, played by Josh Young are incredible. Nolan’s vulnerability is heartbreaking while Judas douche-baggery infuriating. The new Mary Magdalene is just OK, which is a bit of a bummer because the ballad, I Don’t Know How To Love Him, might be one of the most beautiful songs when done right. Chilina Kennedy rushed through it too quickly for my liking and I suggest she slow it down.
The story of Jesus Christ is like a story ripped from the headlines today. We build people up and tear them down all the time. Jesus was perhaps one of the first recorded celebrities. Chances are if Jesus were around today, he would be enjoying a career and following on the level of Madonna or Lady Gaga or Bono. If God really wanted Jesus to change the world he would have pressented himself in these days, with publicists, managers and agents keeping him at bay from the naysayers, politicians and mobs. The lyrics of the from the title song finale ring true:
Now why’d you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?
If you’d come today
You could have reached the whole nation
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication
No matter what reviewers say, this is a crowd-pleaser of the highest order, which received a screaming, cheering, sob-filled standing ovation as Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice joined the cast for a final bow. Exhilarating.