Why'd you choose such a backward time in such a strange land?
March 29, 2018 5:56 AM   Subscribe

On April 1, Jesus Christ Superstar will be the latest (but not the last) musical to be performed live on broadcast TV in the U.S., but how the hell did the last week in the life of Jesus get to be an international mega-hit rock opera? It all started with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which launched a young Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice on the path of another biblical musical concept album set to more contemporary sounds and interwoven with modern themes. And then came the theater productions, the movie, and even more theater productions and tours....

But back to the beginning -- Andrew, 17, and Tim, 20, were introduced in 1965, and they hit it off well enough to make their first musical that year, though The Likes of Us wouldn't get produced until 2005. A family friend of the Lloyd Webbers, Alan Doggett (research article abstract, article paywalled), helped them with their demo tape for that musical, and then suggested a "pop cantata" along the lines of Herbert Chappell's The Daniel Jazz (1963) and Michael Hurd's Jonah-Man Jazz (1966, YT playlist), both of which were based on stories from the Old Testament. This lead to a piece that the boys wanted to call How to Succeed in Egypt Without Really Trying, or perhaps Pal Joseph, which was first written as a 20 minute piece, then expanded to 35 minutes in length.

Lloyd Webber's composer father William arranged for a second performance at his church, Westminster Central Hall, with a revised and expanded format, in May 1968. One of the parents in that audience was the Sunday Times music critic, and he reviewed the piece favorably in the newspaper, helping Rice and Lloyd Webber along their way. This was probably how they got Decca to release a 30 minute studio version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1969, which was re-released in 1971 with a complete tracklisting (available now as a YouTube playlist), following the success of ...

Jesus Christ Superstar, the hit rock opera. With those past accolades, the pair set off making a full musical, and turned again to the bible. In a 2012 interview on NPR,
"We were toying around with various subjects, and I think it was the dean of St. Paul's Cathedral who said, 'Why don't you think about the story of Jesus?' " Lloyd Webber recalls. "And we kind of toyed with it and then thought, 'Maybe yes, maybe no.' "

Rice says what eventually made it a yes was a brainstorm: the idea of telling the story from Judas Iscariot's point of view.

"It's logical that he might've been worried about the man that he admired, and had joined, [that he] was kind of getting out of control," Rice says. "In the Bible, there is absolutely no motivation for Judas, other than that he is sort of a 100 percent figure of evil. And it seemed to me that that was probably not the case."
Decca/MCA first gave Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice money to make the single, or the two convinced Decca to buy the single that they had already produced. Either way, the single charted well, and Decca were open to another concept album, following the hit of The Who's Tommy.

The full album has quite the cast of characters; the part of Jesus was sung by Ian Gillan (1970 video), then the lead singer of Deep Purple, with Murray Head as Judas (1971 promo video) after performing in the West End production of Hair, Michael d'Abo as King Herod, Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene, and Barry Dennen as Pilate. Many of the primary musicians — guitarists Neil Hubbard and Henry McCullough, bassist Alan Spenner, and drummer Bruce Rowland — came from Joe Cocker's backing group The Grease Band (live video). Saxophonist Chris Mercer had also played with Hubbard in Juicy Lucy (who were known for their cover of Bo Diddly's "Who Do You Love").

The double-record album, set in a moderate rock tempo (Google preview of the voice and piano songbook), was released in 1970, and it was a best-seller in the U.S. (a week after bombing in the initial U.K. release) and then charted around the world in 1970 and '71. In reflection, it has aged well -- the album is rated 4.21/5 on the Prog Archives website, from from 173 votes by site members. There have been a great number of theatrical productions, starting soon there-after with performances around the world. For instance, it was the first major musical production India, performed in Mumbai in 1974, as recounted in this oral history of the production.

But before we get too far, we have to cover the 1973 film (previously), which included many of its Broadway cast reprising their roles. For example, Ted Neeley was initially an understudy for the part of Jesus on Broadway, took the role in Los Angeles, kept it in the film, and has reprised the role many times since then and continues in the role, despite the rest of the cast often being played by actors who are decades younger. The film was shot "on location" or close enough, in blistering heat where Neeley recalled that "the most important commodity the whole time we were there was water." The end result was impressive, as you can hear in the more dramatic soundtrack, but you must really see in the musical numbers (incomplete YT playlist; rent or buy digital movie). Roger Ebert celebrated Norman Jewison's direction of the movie, writing that he had "taken a piece of commercial shlock and turned it into a Biblical movie with dignity." Jewison's prior film was Fiddler on the Roof (Wikipedia; trailer), and he'd follow up JCS with Rollerball (Wiki; trailer).

Following the concept album and the recording of the movie cast, there were not one but two Australian cast recordings, the first pre-dating the original film by a year (YouTube playlist), the second coming out 30 years later, in 1992 (YT album, apparently incomplete; bonus: unpublished DVD: Act 1 and Act 2).

And then in 1995, Jesus Christ Supserstar: A Resurrection (all 25 tracks streaming via Daemon Records), a supergroup of Atlanta bands and musicians, concocted by Big fish Ensemble’s Michael Lorant, who brought up the idea to the Indigo Girls while the two bands were touring together.
While listening to the original JCS soundtrack during a long road trip between tour dates, Michael was struck with “the completely outrageous idea of recording an Atlanta version and began casting the album right then and there. It was basically a joke and seemed completely out of reach considering our resources.” Then a while later, the joke metamorphosed into reality when Indigo Girl Amy Ray (who sings the role of Jesus on the album) expressed interest in recording the project for release on her label. Amy comments,” The politics and history of Jesus’ story became even more profound when seen through the eyes of Judas. Michael Lorant did a brilliant job of directing the arrangements, organization, and production of this album.
The next year, there was a radio production for BBC Radio 2 starred Tony Hadley as Jesus ("Gethsemane"), Roger Daltrey as Judas ("Superstar" and "Heaven On Their Minds"), Frances Ruffelle as Mary Magdalene and Julian Clary as King Herod; this production was re-broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra on 6 August 2016.

There was also a direct-to-video remake of the movie in 2000 (Rotten Tomatoes; IMDb; YT playlist), starring Glenn Carter as Jesus of Nazareth, Jérôme Pradon as Judas Iscariot, Renée Castle as Mary Magdalene, Fred Johanson as Pontius Pilate, and Rik Mayall as King Herod.

Which brings us to the new NBC live production, titled Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert! Announced in December with Alice Cooper as King Herod, then joined by John Legend as Jesus. To promote the live production, NBC produced two lyric videos: "Gethsemane" with John Legend and "Everything’s Alright" with Sara Bareilles. They also put up a taste of "The Last Supper" and a longer first look sneak peak/ behind the scenes video.
posted by filthy light thief (80 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
 
Very smart of them to NOT program it against "The Ten Commandments" the night before.
posted by Melismata at 6:31 AM on March 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


When I saw Jérôme Pradon's take on Judas, I was surprised how much it seems to revert to the "evil" interpretation. Compare this to this. When Carl Anderson says he "only want to know" he comes across as sincere, while Jérôme Pradon is feigning to further torment Jesus.
posted by RobotHero at 6:35 AM on March 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


Last night my wife announced that she'd be Tivoing this as we'll be out Sunday night. The only thing I know about this musical is what we used to sing in elementary school. I'm sure there's a definitive version of this but this is what I remember:

Jesus Christ, superstar
Riding down the street in my Yamaha
Cops are coming, I don’t care
I’ve got my bulletproof underwear
When they shoot, it doesn’t hurt
I’ve got a bulletproof t-shirt
When I die, bury me
And hang my balls on a cherry tree

We sang this over and over and over and over and over.
posted by bondcliff at 6:36 AM on March 29, 2018 [12 favorites]


I have so much love for this. I know deep down it's problematic as hell (Herod's Song, oh god!), but I listened to it non-stop for a period in junior high going into high school and holy shit. The movie is great. The opening with Carl Anderson as Judas singing in the overture is amaaaaaazing.

Sadly, when I finally saw it in person (literally just a couple years ago) it was ... not the best performance. My wife was confused.

"In the Bible, there is absolutely no motivation for Judas, other than that he is sort of a 100 percent figure of evil. And it seemed to me that that was probably not the case."

This is 100% what I love about the way the story is framed. The Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar has so much more of a believable arc than the biblical story, and it's a way more interesting dynamic.
posted by tocts at 6:44 AM on March 29, 2018 [16 favorites]


Well I'll be. I've quite studiously avoided these trainwrecky live musical spectacles but hot damn. John Legend, huh? I have completely loved the musical since I was in middle school (and I was such a hipster about it when, in my Liberation Theology-y Catholic high school we were shown the film at least twice in various religion classes). It influenced a lot of (most of?) my ideas about Jesus and Christianity because I wasn't raised in a Christian household and really had very little idea of the stories of the Bible outside of popular cultural properties (until I went to Catholic school and had to read a lot of the Bible--OT and NT--and lol wow that was...surprising.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:51 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh wow, I just remembered I do have a copy of Jesus Christ Supserstar: A Resurrection somewhere (I hung out with a lot of lesbian theater students in college).

I am unapologetic about my love for Jesus Christ Superstar. It's the best thing Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have ever done (and really, in my opinion, maybe the only good thing ...) and everything about it is great.

I do prefer the original rock opera album in a lot of ways, but the movie had Carl Anderson so ... sometimes it's tough to decide.

(I wasn't much for the 2000 version but I don't have a lot of memories of it. Mostly that it was trying too hard. I've also seen one of the touring versions -- maybe 20ish years ago -- and it made me decide I like productions where the religious aspects are de-emphasized.)

I did set my DVR for the live one and I'm really curious to see how it goes. I think the cast is pretty solid, all things considered.
posted by darksong at 6:57 AM on March 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


We listened to Jesus Christ Superstar in (United Methodist) Sunday school, and then at some point the minister invited all the kids over to watch it at the parsonage when it was on TV. But Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was a thing we listened to and watched in (public) school. Not sure why it skewed that way.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:58 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


When I saw Jérôme Pradon's take on Judas, I was surprised how much it seems to revert to the "evil" interpretation. Compare this to this. When Carl Anderson says he "only want to know" he comes across as sincere, while Jérôme Pradon is feigning to further torment Jesus

I dearly hope Brandon Victor Dixon goes the Carl Anderson route; like tocts, one of the things I love about JCS is the complexity it adds to the character of Judas. He's the main character and Perdon turns him into a cariacature. It makes the musical (and the story) so much less compelling.
posted by schroedinger at 6:59 AM on March 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


There's a band I'm crazy about called The Indelicates that did what would seem to be a spoof of JCS called David Koresh Superstar. It is actually a fairly serious history of the Branch Davidian siege and the events leading to it.

Previous to that they did a concept album called The Book of Job, The Musical which is sort-of a spoof of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. For some reason, that album is no longer available.
posted by Teppy at 6:59 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


It'd be sinful to not mention Peaches Christ Superstar, where Peaches did it as a one-woman show, covering all of the parts.
posted by Fig at 7:24 AM on March 29, 2018 [16 favorites]


My favorite version: Jesus Christ Superstar Live Arena Tour 2012, with Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot, Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm as Mary Magdalene, Chris Moyles as King Herod and Ben Forster as Jesus. (Link to trailer for paid version on YT, may autoplay; it's not streaming free anywhere right now in the US but can be bought or rented in the usual places.)
posted by Lyn Never at 7:24 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


I feel strangely compelled to link ADBC: A Rock Opera (SLYT), "a parody rock opera with music by Matt Berry and lyrics by Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade," and The Greatest Story Never Told about the Nativity.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:24 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


I am on Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection.

Just wanted that out there.
posted by donpardo at 7:33 AM on March 29, 2018 [15 favorites]


Oh my God, they really are doing a live Jesus Christ Superstar! This idea came up in my personal circle of friends a few days ago when someone mentioned Rik Mayall's turn as Herod and I suggested starting a rumor that Fox was planning a live TV production with Trump playing Herod to see how far we could get it to go and how many people would believe it.

I mean come on, would it not instantly become the definitive performance of the role?
posted by Naberius at 7:35 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


I would have gone with Godspell, but that's just me.
posted by mikelieman at 7:42 AM on March 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


When I was eight or so, I saw a summer stock version of the show, and it was really my first introduction to The Story Of Jesus, and that was a weird interpretation to start with.

I really enjoy this musical and hope it is fun.

When I saw Jérôme Pradon's take on Judas, I was surprised how much it seems to revert to the "evil" interpretation. Compare this to this. When Carl Anderson says he "only want to know" he comes across as sincere, while Jérôme Pradon is feigning to further torment Jesus

Yeah, they do a very Judas as resentful ex, Jesus as complete asshole version of the show. I enjoy that version very much.

Last summer I saw a version where Judas was played by a woman, and though it was very heavily influenced by the 1995 version in every single other way, it very carefully did not play Judas as a resentful ex. (Apparently initially Jesus was also going to be played by a woman, I don't know what happened there.) It was a really interesting take -- they also played Herod as Trump, including the red hat and him yelling "Make Jerusalem Great Again!"
posted by jeather at 7:47 AM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I would have gone with Godspell, but that's just me.

THIS THIS THIS

Or even Joseph. JCS just irritates me, for some reason.
posted by Melismata at 7:49 AM on March 29, 2018


> I would have gone with Godspell, but that's just me.

THIS THIS THIS


I have found my tribe.

"When you feel sad, or under a curse...."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:57 AM on March 29, 2018 [7 favorites]


I fucking love this musical and can play most of the bass line from memory.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:02 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's now impossible for me to listen to JCS without thinking of the most recent season of Transparent.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:07 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is just extremely my shit. How did I not know about this? thanks!
posted by allthinky at 8:10 AM on March 29, 2018


And just to hit an extreme tangent, despite being very familiar with the title, as I was scanning this entry, my brain read it as "...Technicolor Democrat" which conjures up some interesting imagery.
posted by Four Ds at 8:21 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Fig: It'd be sinful to not mention Peaches Christ Superstar, where Peaches did it as a one-woman show, covering all of the parts.

Ah fook, thanks for that reminder! I even saw one of her performances, and it was fantastic! I can't recall where per performance fell between disappointed believer and villain. I really am hoping she releases a recorded version, even audio-only.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:24 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I recall quite clearly just how divisive JCS actually was when the double-album was released. Here in the hinterlands, all manner of Christian church-goers were quite incensed over the sympathetic portrayal of Judas, as well as the depiction of Jesus as human and holy. I had an especially heated argument with a girl over Mary Magdalene singing "he's just a man." She was unable to hear the words from Mary's point of view, and felt the song was denying Jesus' holiness.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:25 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


I recall quite clearly just how divisive JCS actually was when the double-album was released.

Yeah, I'm very curious to see how this broadcast goes over, because as far as I'm aware this show is still rather un-liked among the fervent evangelical types. I haven't gone looking to see if there's any pre-backlash, but I'd be surprised if there wasn't at least some.
posted by dnash at 8:38 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


It only just now occurred to me that Herod in JCS may well have been an influence for George III in Hamilton.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:46 AM on March 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


I LOVE this movie.

Thank you.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:49 AM on March 29, 2018


The original SCS LP, Hair, Oklahoma, and My Fair Lady were some of the records my parents let us kids listen to when we were kids. These songs are tattooed on my brain.
posted by jetsetsc at 8:51 AM on March 29, 2018


A French-Tunisian musician named Alain Boublil scored a seat at the original '71 New York premiere, got his mind blown out the back of his skull, and wandered the streets of Manhattan for hours afterward, trying to come up with a concept for a French equivalent of Jesus Christ Superstar. At last he hit upon inspiration, hurried back to Paris, and badgered a composer friend of his named Claude-Michel Schönberg into partnering with him on the ultimate French musical: La Révolution Française.

It's an awful lot like JCS, only with more harpsichord and counterpoint and a bigger cast. (Louix XVI, Marie Antoinette, the Dauphin, the royalist Chouans, Robespierre, Tayllerand, Fouquier-Tinville, and Marat and Corday all get their own songs, and a young Napoleon shows up to get heckled by a chorus of washerwomen.)

La Révolution Française enjoyed a fair amount of success in France, following a familiar trajectory from concept album to stage production. Boublil and Schönberg applied their experience to their follow-up show, a musical with a more manageable narrative and a smaller cast. This marks the only time in history those specifications have applied to Les Misérables.
posted by Iridic at 8:56 AM on March 29, 2018 [27 favorites]


It's the best thing Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have ever done (and really, in my opinion, maybe the only good thing ...) and everything about it is great.

It's like you've forgot that Evita exists...
posted by elsietheeel at 8:57 AM on March 29, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'm not a huge musical buff but yeah, something about JCS has always been so campy and fun and culturally interesting. I especially like the dynamic where Judas says "what if I just stayed here and ruined your ambition", basically challenging that Jesus wants to be the 'star' and the martyr and Judas is just as much being pushed BY him to be the bad guy rather than just being evil. Fascinating!
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:57 AM on March 29, 2018


Huh. I had no idea Rice and Webber were so young when they started. And the life path of _Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat_ sure demonstrates how it's so much easier to succeed if you grow up in the right circles. Not that they don't have talent, but I suspect there are a lot of talents on the same level who didn't have their well-connected parents and the Sunday Times smoothing their way and never had a chance to do much.
posted by tavella at 9:03 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


"In the Bible, there is absolutely no motivation for Judas"

The 30 pieces of silver were roughly four month's wages for a skilled laborer. That would be a very significant amount of money to receive all at once, especially at a time when most people were unable to accumulate capital. Always seemed like adequate motivation to me, especially if he had debts.
posted by jedicus at 9:14 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm very curious to see how this broadcast goes over, because as far as I'm aware this show is still rather un-liked among the fervent evangelical types.

Black Jesus. I think you can extrapolate how that's going to play with them.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:17 AM on March 29, 2018 [6 favorites]


But Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was a thing we listened to and watched in (public) school.

Mine too, but we went one better! We put on the actual show itself. Me? I sang the role of Pharoah, awuh, thankyuhvurymuch unh hunh hunh.

Seriously, in a public school. I have no idea what they were thinking.

My wife and I saw a Ted Neely / Vernon Reid roadshow of JCS quite some time ago, and they ended the show by literally flying Neely up off the cross (or maybe with the cross) into the rafters. It actually made me angry!

The show ends with Jesus' death and his resurrection is not referenced; it is one of the stronger choices the show makes. The whole damn thing is about doubt, not faith. By not showing the resurrection, the script is intending to provoke the audience into doubt about the choices the show makes!

/furrows brow

now, wait, am I right?


Yes. Yes I am.

(Neely was, ehurm, a bit dessicated. Reid was fantastic.)
posted by mwhybark at 9:29 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


Favorite JCS factoid: Marc Maron was interviewing Lin-Manuel Miranda for his WTF podcast, and Marc mentions that his parents had musical theater on vinyl when he was a kid, and that JCS was one of his favorite albums, could sing it from memory.

Sure enough, Maron at one point later breaks into "So you are the Christ, you're the great Jesus Christ...", and Miranda joins right in without missing a beat, and they sing a verse together. At which point, Maron comments "Yes, I am a closet musical theater geek."

To which Miranda replies laughing, "Dude, you just sang 'King Herod's Song' with me, from memory, into a microphone. You are ALL the way out of the closet. Welcome, brother."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:35 AM on March 29, 2018 [24 favorites]




The film adaptation is so very of-its-time. I remember seeing a parody of it on "Mr Show", titled "Jeepers Creepers", which amused the heck out of me at the time.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2018


I was in parochial school when the original JCS double album came out. I heard about it and really wanted to listen to it, but when I asked my parents for it, my father looked at the price tag for the 2-LP set and asked me if I was crazy (we didn't have a lot of money).

I did eventually get it and listened to it so much that, even now, I could be woken out of a sound sleep to sing any of the songs in the score.

The wizened nun who taught my class of course knew it was evil and possibly heretical—it was written by Protestants!—a view encouraged by one of the suck-up girls in my class, who told her there were swears in the score. Which we all know to be a dirty stinkin' lie.

Thanks, flt, for a classic flt deep dive.
posted by the sobsister at 10:53 AM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


The disappointment when I realized that this isn't the Jesus musical with Day by Day in it. :( :( :(
posted by fluttering hellfire at 10:58 AM on March 29, 2018 [3 favorites]


And while I respect the opinion of the supporters of Godspell, clown Jesus sank that show for me, even with "All for the Best" and "Turn Back, O Man" as standout tunes.
posted by the sobsister at 10:58 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I was a big musical theatre dork growing up, but for whatever reason, I didn't have a full copy of the JCS album. I did, however, have some Andrew Lloyd Weber compilation albums, so I knew the bigger numbers: Superstar, Everything's All Right, I Don't Know How to Love Him, and so on.

Seven or eight years ago, I finally see Jesus Christ Superstar for the first time.

I was profoundly disappointed that the opening song of the show is NOT Superstar. Because in my head, Jesus Christ Superstar clearly had the dramaturgy of Hamilton -- where it was the story of Jesus as told by Judas. After a lifetime of being told that it was the Gospel from Judas' point of view, the reality of it did not feel like what I really wanted it to be. The first Easter that happened after Hamilton went big (two years ago?), I made the connection that what I really wanted out of JCS was Hamilton.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 11:04 AM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I love how the musical makes clear the sheer improbability of Jesus' ministry. When you're raised in an overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian society, it seems inevitable that this baby, born in a manger, crucified as a criminal, starts a worldwide movement. We've all heard the stories so many times, with the old-timey language, that it seems normal, inevitable even. But being born in a trough is disgusting! Crucifixion was a humiliating punishment intended for the worst of the worst. Plenty of people preach in the streets and believe they are prophets of God, but essentially none of them had the success he did. The show brings all of this to light in a very effective way.
posted by wnissen at 11:19 AM on March 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


The disappointment when I realized that this isn't the Jesus musical with Day by Day in it. :( :( :(
posted by fluttering hellfire


Eponysterical. :)
posted by Melismata at 11:34 AM on March 29, 2018


I spent the better part of an hour watching a tiny yet enthusiastic performance of it at a city festival... man, probably 20 years ago. Tiny little 3 man band and a bare minimum of players, and yet it was fun. I've avoided all of the previous live tv musical events, but I'll watch this one if I remember it.
posted by Kyol at 12:34 PM on March 29, 2018


And while I respect the opinion of the supporters of Godspell, clown Jesus sank that show for me,

well at least he wasn't a mime ...

but yeah, agreed. Godspell made me want to physically hurt Jesus freaks whereas Superstar remains my go-to whenever I encounter someone who is rather clued out as to what the Jesus story even is (happens rather often in my mostly secular network).
posted by philip-random at 12:36 PM on March 29, 2018


the holy bible exposes jesus christ superstar - dr jack van impe - full LP

well, someone had to post it ... he pretty much gets going right off the bat - i won't feel hurt if you only listen for a minute, that's all i could take ...
posted by pyramid termite at 12:39 PM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


Uncommon Ephemera

subscribed
posted by thelonius at 12:42 PM on March 29, 2018


The show ends with Jesus' death and his resurrection is not referenced; it is one of the stronger choices the show makes. The whole damn thing is about doubt, not faith.

Yes, this is why many Christians dislike Superstar and love Godspell.
posted by CatastropheWaitress at 12:54 PM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


I used to listen to the double album ... um, religiously. My friends and I would even sometimes sing parts together. Which was a lot of fun, until we got to Simon the Zealot's song. We all wanted to be Simon, and no one would voluntarily relinquish, so we'd invariably do a coin toss or draw straws.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:29 PM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I play JCS, in it's entirety 2 or 3 times a year.

I sing, very loudly, all parts, very poorly.
posted by parki at 2:53 PM on March 29, 2018 [10 favorites]


Like a lot of other kids -- who, before the internet, I had no idea existed -- I fell in love with this musical when I was twelve or thirteen. It's the damnedest thing that, while I grew up in the Bible Belt with the fear of the Devil at every turn, no one had actually told me the story of Christ's Passion before I heard this musical. If they had, it had been in a declamation from the KJV while I was in a pew thinking about how bad my church shoes hurt. I knew how it went in the Nicene Creed and all, but none of it made sense to me as a human story until JCS came along. Needless to say, I am completely there for this performance.

It just occurred to me that C.S. Lewis would have loathed it, and I would have loved to watch him squirm through it.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2018 [4 favorites]


It just occurred to me that C.S. Lewis would have loathed it, and I would have loved to watch him squirm through it.

I'm intrigued; Countess Elena, could you expand on that thought? I'm afraid that I don't know enough about C.S. Lewis to get this point.
posted by tumbling at 4:26 PM on March 29, 2018


> the holy bible exposes jesus christ superstar - dr jack van impe - full LP

Ah, Jack Van Impe...my wife and I dressed up as him and his wife Rexella one Halloween going on 20 years ago, and when I was a kid I would marvel at their show, on which the End of the World was always about two weeks away and to be caused by the American geopolitical bugbear du jour. As for Jesus Christ Superstar, my parents (who are not particularly religious but like musicals) owned a copy of the soundtrack and when I was really young parts of it really freaked me out, to the point where I'd run out of the room when I knew they were coming on.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:22 PM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


CTRL-F "Laibach"

0 hits?!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 5:39 PM on March 29, 2018 [5 favorites]


CTRL-F "Laibach"

0 hits?!


and then there's this version that uses footage from Mel Gibson's torture porn mega-hit ... you are warned.
posted by philip-random at 6:14 PM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've always wondered if Rice and Webber had read Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita" as their Pilates are pretty close. Both are portrayed as recognizing that crucifying Jesus is the wrong thing to do, but going along with it because they can't face the consequences of doing the right thing. Of course Bulkagov's Pilate had a dog, migraine headaches, and IIRC, Judas Iscariot murdered because he was REALLY pissed about the whole affair.

RobotHero: Thanks for posting that. I've been watching some other clips of the versions. The staging choices between are quite interesting see: Pilate and Pilate. The 73 version seems to be far more restrained generally.
posted by Grimgrin at 6:45 PM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


Pilate and Pilate.

Neither of those version are ideal, because they don't have a supremely bored Scotsman drawling, "Someone Chraist."
posted by Iridic at 7:14 PM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am so looking forward to this.

I remember Seattle's most popular rock station, KJR, playing the album straight through one Sunday night in 1971 or so. I was in high school, but I was supposed to be in bed by 9 on school nights. Instead I stood in the dark with my ear to the radio for two hours, diving under the covers just before my dad came in to make sure I was asleep at 11. It was wonderful.

Years later I discovered, and fell in love, with Godspell. And much, much more recently I rediscovered Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I'm an unabashed fan of musicals, and am unashamed to say I enjoy most (but not all) of Andrew Lloyd Webber's work.
posted by lhauser at 7:46 PM on March 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


My high school/college boyfriend LOVED JCS. To the point where he'd convinced me that Judas was a good name for our hypothetical son who would have also been baptized Catholic. We saw that musical several times between 1994 and 1995, when I DTMFA. We saw the touring company twice I believe, and a couple of Community Theater type Productions.

I had to watch a college production of JCS in '96 for a stagecraft class. A lot of people complained that the microphones were terrible, but I didn't notice because of how familiar I was with the musical. That was the last time I heard the soundtrack in its entirety, and I have no desire to do it again because sense memory can be a hell of a bitch.

The only part of this production I'm interested in is seeing Herod's Song. I want to see Alice Cooper's take on it. :-) Speaking of that number, does anybody know why a lot of times Herod was portrayed as some flaming homosexual type?
posted by luckynerd at 10:29 PM on March 29, 2018 [1 favorite]


does anybody know why a lot of times Herod was portrayed as some flaming homosexual type?

Huh. I always believed that he was supposed to be an Elton John imitation, but Google is failing to back me up.

So is chronology, now that I think about it.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:43 PM on March 29, 2018


So this is a hot take, hearing the album again many years after hearing it pretty much constantly for sveral months around the time of its release--is it the case that Jesus Christ Superstar more or less invented what would become the standard heavy-metal vocal style? I can't remember hearing much of that higher-register shriek in rock before the album, but I've certainly heard a lot of it since.
posted by layceepee at 6:47 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


I can't remember hearing much of that higher-register shriek in rock before the album, but I've certainly heard a lot of it since.

Ian Gillan had already been singing like that on Deep Purple songs like "Child in Time." He was influenced by Arthur Brown's shrieking on songs like "Fire," and Brown in turn was trying to bring Screamin' Jay Hawkins' creepy R&B style to the psychedelic era.
posted by Iridic at 7:24 AM on March 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


jedicus: "The 30 pieces of silver were roughly four month's wages for a skilled laborer. That would be a very significant amount of money to receive all at once, especially at a time when most people were unable to accumulate capital. "

Pretty good wages for one little kiss.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:01 AM on March 30, 2018 [6 favorites]


The show ends with Jesus' death and his resurrection is not referenced; it is one of the stronger choices the show makes. The whole damn thing is about doubt, not faith. By not showing the resurrection, the script is intending to provoke the audience into doubt about the choices the show makes!

The only production I've seen had Jesus come out dressed in white at the curtain call, which at the time I thought was wishy-washy trying to have it both ways.

But if JCS is supposed to be from the point of view of Judas, it makes sense that it wouldn't address anything that happened after he hanged himself.
posted by straight at 8:59 AM on March 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


I had an especially heated argument with a girl over Mary Magdalene singing "he's just a man." She was unable to hear the words from Mary's point of view, and felt the song was denying Jesus' holiness.

It's probably because that was how she was taught to read the Bible, as a message directly from God's mouth to my ears, instead of a collection of writings that themselves explicitly claim to be things like a letter written by a specific man addressed to a specific person who is definitely not me.
posted by straight at 9:03 AM on March 30, 2018 [2 favorites]


It just occurred to me that C.S. Lewis would have loathed it, and I would have loved to watch him squirm through it.

Lewis was a big fan of the JCS of his day, The Man Born to Be King, the BBC radio plays written by Dorothy Sayers. Wikipedia says:
The project aroused a storm of controversy, even before it was broadcast. Objections arose to the very idea—atheists complained of Christian propaganda, while devout Christians declared that the BBC would be committing blasphemy by allowing the Christ to be impersonated by a human actor—and also to Sayers' approach to the material. Sayers, who felt that the inherent drama of the Gospel story had become muffled by familiarity and a general failure to think of its characters as real people, was determined to give the plays dramatic immediacy, featuring realistic, identifiable characters with human emotions, motivations, and speech-patterns. The decision to have the characters speak in contemporary colloquial English was, by itself, the cause of much disquiet among those more accustomed to Jesus and his followers using the polished and formal words of the King James Bible.
But Lewis told Sayers in a letter, "I’ve finished The Man Born to be King and think it a complete success," and mentioned it in a letter to J.B. Phillips about his paraphrase of the Bible: “I hope very much you will carry out your plan of doing all the epistles. Of course you’ll be opposed tooth and nail by all the ‘cultured’ asses who say you’re only spoiling ‘the beauty’ of the A.V [Authorized Version, i.e. the King James Version of the Bible] —all the people who objected to Green Pastures and The Man Born to be King and who are always waffling about reverence. But we must kill that.”
posted by straight at 9:17 AM on March 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


jeather: When I was eight or so, I saw a summer stock version of the show, and it was really my first introduction to The Story Of Jesus, and that was a weird interpretation to start with.

Heh, that's our boys - with Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hamilton to round out their musical education ;) (our oldest, when he was 5 or 6, asked "who's Jesus"? and we realized we hadn't done much to inform him or his younger brother about religions of any sort).


mikelieman: I would have gone with Godspell, but that's just me.

I know the name Godspell and the iconic poster/image, and seeing the number of MeFites who prefer it to JCS, it's now on my list of things to research, for my own sake.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:41 AM on March 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


Early teens when the album was released, and it was in constant rotation among me and my friends, but haven't listened to it in years.

In winter 2009, Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, after their annual holiday we-depend-on-this-for-so-much-of-our-budget production of A Christmas Carol, they staged a Rice/Lloyd-Webber approved "Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL." Obama was inaugurated for the first time during the run. They couldn't have known, but likely hoped, this show would coincide with it. Think about how people were feeling, especially in an African-American capital like Atlanta.

It was - I mean for you to take this word literally - amazing.

This gives only a vague hint of the power of the show: Darryl Jovan Williams as Judas singing Heaven on Their Minds (SLYT). In performance it was terrific.

Playbill:
Created to utilize a large gospel choir (the Atlanta production boasts a choir of 27), [Louis] St. Louis said that several regional theatre companies were interested in the work, although "nobody wanted to quite get it up at the size that the Alliance was willing to do," he explained. "Here's the chance for us to break the cliché of what people think a black gospel choir does," St. Louis said of the musical reinterpretation. Collaborating with vocal arranger Darryl Jovan Williams, who also plays Judas, St. Louis notes that while roughly half of the score has been rearranged as gospel, Lloyd Webber's melodies remain intact. "Gospel reaches you in a different way, so given the combination of Andrew's extraordinary score and, I think, some of the best writing Tim Rice ever gave us, combined with the contemporary gospel injections, [the production] is a pretty volatile package," he stated.
Local free paper Creative Loafing:
Devout apostles of musical theater should flock to the Alliance Theatre for Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL as soon as possible. Watching Darius de Haas’ performance as Jesus, particularly his solo of Gethsemane, offers such breathtaking thrills, it’s like being present at the creation.

Gethsemane finds Jesus on the eve of his execution, confronting God with fear and rage. Take this cup away from me. Anxiety, indignation and other emotions seem to ripple across his features, while he raises a voice that seems capable of shaking heaven’s foundations. It may be a miracle if de Haas can sustain the song’s power throughout the show’s entire run, providing justification to make haste to the Alliance.
At a gospel show I expected audience call-and-response, but the house was absolutely rocking, with ecstatic ovations at the end. One of the best live entertainment experiences I've had. A complete shame it only ever had that limited run in ATL - I believe it would have been huge regionally, and perhaps even a big hit on Broadway.

I hope John Legend nails it, and I hope Alice Cooper's bit goes past very quickly.
posted by conscious matter at 11:00 AM on March 30, 2018 [5 favorites]


Oh, wow. I didn't have the cash to see the Alliance production in 2009 and have regretted it ever since. Alliance turns 50 next season - maybe I'll drop them a hopeful email.
posted by catlet at 11:08 AM on March 30, 2018


trying to bring Screamin' Jay Hawkins' creepy R&B style to the psychedelic era.

I find this amusing in light of Screamin' Jay's traditional stage show - he would emerge from a coffin, preferably a coffin that mystically appeared centerstage via a scrim of dry-ice stage smoke and a stage lift, something I was fortunate enough to see with my own eyes on one of his late eighties tours.

Meaning JCS (no resurrection as written) cribbed its' most influential musical moment from a guy that built his whole show around one!
posted by mwhybark at 11:42 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]


JCS has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid -- Carl Anderson's performance makes me week every time I see it. And when there was a showing of a remastered version of the movie here, Ted Neely was in attendance and I shook his hand to tell him thanks afterward, and he was one of the kindest people I've had the pleasure to meet.

Also, it is INCREDIBLY satisfying to put JCS on really loud and sing ALL the parts!
posted by fairlynearlyready at 1:46 PM on March 30, 2018 [4 favorites]


> Rice says what eventually made it a yes was a brainstorm: the idea of telling the story from Judas Iscariot's point of view

When I was a kid I thought of it as the story of Jesus; it was only watching it for the first time as an adult, last night, that I realized it was all about Judas.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:55 AM on April 1, 2018 [3 favorites]


I always assumed it was sort of an accidental artifact of them finding Jesus less interesting.

(The other followers come off worst of all, being a bunch of hippy sheep)
posted by Artw at 11:24 AM on April 1, 2018


I made a Fanfare thread for chatting about it while we watch, if anybody else is settling in for a good long watch!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:44 PM on April 1, 2018 [1 favorite]




The other followers come off worst of all, being a bunch of hippy sheep

I see them more as just persistently not getting what Jesus's message is and what he's about. They keep seeing him through the prism of the existing messiah narrative.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:06 PM on April 1, 2018 [1 favorite]


I knew the idea of a brown-skinned, dark-haired Jesus rather than a blond surfer dude was cool. I had no idea how visually striking it would be, and I’m not even a Christian (though I was raised in proximity to it). But wow. Fuck yeah.

I loved the 2018 choreography of “Heaven on their Minds”. The 1973 version has Judas howling from the mountain top, unheard. He’s talking to himself. He’s frightened by the crowd, and he points to the crowd surrounding his friend. The friend he’s been with since the whole thing began. He says “We are getting much to loud” from his perch on the mountain. He says “we”… yet he’s not part of those in close physical proximity to Jesus.

The 2018 Judas is a voice in the crowd, struggling to be heard amid the clamor. Peace be with you, brother; don’t hug me. And from within the crowd, this version has Judas singing “They are getting much too loud”. He’s still talking to Jesus in a way the 1973 Judas isn’t.

When Judas sings “We are occupied; Have you forgotten how put down we are?”, the 2018 Jesus makes eye contact with Judas. Amid the crowd, amid the love and the hugs and the Burning Man vibes,with all that Heaven on their minds, the one thing Judas can say to snap his homie out of the ecstasy is to throw the bare truth at him.
Brother, we are talking about executions. Rome nails people to trees for shit like this. The people you love, whom you exhort to love each other and to be good for God’s sake, are gonna watch you (and maybe all of us) die slowly in public. They might get killed themselves. Those moneylenders have powerful friends. There is a real world that we have to wake up in and we cannot just fucking act like the power structures in place don’t solve their problems with swords & nails. We are occupied! Have you forgotten how put down we are?
Jesus hears him, and recognizes Real Talk from his homie. He hasn’t forgotten. But he has to respect that a homeboy like Judas, who has been there since back in the day, get’s to ask the question.

The late-80s musical theater kid in me really appreciated that staging storytelling-wise.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:01 PM on April 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


theologically, my view of these events has been pretty much equally molded by this musical and Reza Aslan's Zealot, which says something about me, although I'm not sure if it's nice
posted by Countess Elena at 3:21 PM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


" which says something about me, although I'm not sure if it's nice"

It says you'd fit right in at seminary!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:10 PM on April 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


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