Review – Jesus Christ Superstar (Part One)

by Chris McGinty
Since Nathan recently took on a Broadway play for purposes of review, I’d like to go ahead and review one myself. So check… actually, we’ll save that for later.

I first heard “Jesus Christ Superstar” as a cassette recording long before my tenth birthday, but I’m not sure when before. My mom and dad owned the cassette, and played it somewhat frequently, and then somewhat more frequently when I started requesting it. I deal with Miguel a lot on the subject of nostalgia, and if he were to speak up now, he would probably suggest that my love for this play was simply based on fond memories of my childhood. I will dispute this by saying that my mom also owned a cassette recording of “Hair,” and while I mostly like those songs, I’m hard pressed to listen to the soundtrack very often at all. It’s the same with “Grease” as well, which while my mom didn’t own, she watched it on TV frequently enough for me to be familiar with. My dad owned the single for “Greased Lightning,” which I borrowed frequently; but let’s face facts, aside from the theme, that’s the best song in the production. Still through all of this “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been a constant in my life.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” was surrounded by controversy, because at its core it’s a re-imagining from source material dating back thousands of years. I’ll have to look up the title, but it was a book written by Jehovah something. Now I claim Christianity as my religion, but I do realize some very simple facts about the religion. One simple fact is that there was this book that was compiled from various writings all supposed to be inspired by the one true God. Then much later there was a sequel published much the same way about the life of God’s son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Years later another sequel was published called the Koran. The strange thing about these books is there are those who don’t acknowledge any of them as being truth. There are those who acknowledge only the first book as being truth. There are those who acknowledge only the first two books as being truth. And there are those who acknowledge all three as being truth. It was the ones who believe the first two books to be truth, at least some extremists of that sect, who viewed “Jesus Christ Superstar” as a travesty, but that’s nothing special really. The extremists of that religion tend to take offense to a lot of things, and unfortunately, it’s usually without truly understanding what it is they’re on about.

I dealt with my own bit of controversy in 1992 when I named my son Judas. He goes by Jude after the famous Beatles song (watch this amazing all-star performance with some guy named Paul McCartney) but Judas is after Judas Iscariot. What people didn’t, and in some cases refused to, understand is that I would not claim Christianity if it wasn’t for that character. There are many things people don’t understand about the religion they practice. One thing is that there is this challenge of God’s authority by Satan. During this time, we as humans are kind of left to our own devices as God’s way of proving once and for all that we cannot govern ourselves without His guidance. This has always been very off-putting to me. It is why I could relate to Judas who gets caught up in the war of God and the angels, and acts as prophecy has seen by betraying God’s son (someone Christ King of the Jews) only to realize afterward that it was not his will, but what he felt was the right thing to do. I feel that if the story of God and Christ and Satan and all that is real, then the entire human race is in the same position as Judas, torn between our will of serving our creator, and doing what we feel we should, like serving our countries. And I think the biggest reason for non-belief and turning away from faith is this alienation from our creator. In the end, no one could see this as a valid interpretation of Scripture, and Judas’s small role in a far more important struggle, so I told them all to go fuck themselves, because Christianity is at it very core based in forgiveness, and some peeps need to learn how to forgive the actions of one man from 2,000 years ago.

Hmm, it’s all heavy up in here now. Let’s move onto the entertainment. Nathan reviewed “The Phantom of the Opera,” which was penned by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber also penned “Jesus Christ Superstar,” but luckily, he had the help of a man named Tim Rice who I feel made all the difference. I don’t know if Tim Rice is a sir or not, or whether he’s even British. I guess I could use the internet on my phone, and try to find out but it hardly matters. What matters is he was lyricist and co-writer for “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Off the top of my head, I also know that he was lyricist on Disney’s “Aladdin” and he co-wrote the play “Chess” in 1984, featuring one hit called “One Night in Bangkok.” Chess was co-written with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus formerly of ABBA. I’m not sure why, but I don’t like ABBA, but I like much of what the members of ABBA did post breakup. Looked it up; he is a sir.

I think I’m more of a fan of Rice than Webber, and I’m not sure why this is; maybe because Webber gets a lot more notoriety when much of what he does isn’t too noteworthy unless you’re a huge fan of Broadway. I will say this for Webber, he was an American Idol mentor one week, and while many of the mentors smile, look good for the camera, and tell the contestants, “Oh you’re wonderful, yea for you!” Webber was actually helpful, almost as if he’s had to work with singers before. Hahaha.

As a quick aside the recording of the original cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar” featured a Canadian singer in the part of Judas name Murray Head. The song “Superstar” from the play was his first Top 40 hit in America. His second Top 40 hit in America was “One Night in Bangkok.” In spite of many, many albums outside of these two stage productions, those are the only two times he’s made it into the Top 40 in America. The singer in the part of Jesus (Original Cast) on the other hand has. Ian Gillan is the lead singer of Deep Purple: “Smoke on the Water,” “Space Truckin’,” “Highway Star,” and “Knocking at Your Back Door” to name a few. Yvonne Elliman was in the part of Mary Magdalene, and had two hits from the play “Everything’s Alright” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” She also had a hit with a song penned by The Bee Gees called, “If I Can’t Have You,” which was in the film Saturday Night Fever. She may not be the only one, but the only one I know for sure who reprised her role in the film, which brings me to my next point, and will be dealt with in Part Two.

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