April 3, 2018

"From the very opening notes, we had this slightly inexplicable reaction of 'Oh, wow. They’re really doing Jesus Christ Superstar.'"

"We don’t know that we honestly expected otherwise but we suppose in retrospect we assumed some sort of vaguely ironic, winking, American Idol-esque take. JCS is a beloved album, film and show, but theatrically, dramatically and at times even musically, it can get downright goofy. In addition, it’s tied very closely to a post-hippy, pre-metal sound and aesthetic that doesn’t always update well. Plus there’s the treatment of the subject matter, which can be seen as unquestioningly reverent or downright blasphemous, depending on your point of view. And let’s face it; some of those songs are nearly impossible to sing. But JCS Live 'solved' pretty much all of those problems by … simply ignoring them, it would seem... As a production it 'solved' the format problems so many previous musical theater television productions had by simply… putting on a show, in front of an audience, with an orchestra, some dancers, and some great singers with theatrical voices all moving around in a finite and limited space (also known as a stage). No one tried to over-think this one and that was entirely to the production’s benefit. Jesus Christ Superstar Live was the very best of the live network musicals, mainly because it didn’t try to be anything other than what it always was – goofiness and all."

Write Tom & Lorenzo (with much more at the link).

16 comments:

Ralph L said...

I thought it was advertised as a "concert" version, which would let them do whatever they want with it.

As musical theater, it's a lot more coherent than Godspell.

rehajm said...

I love their take. I've only seen JCS a couple of times at free outdoor theater from local companies and this is always what I made of it. Bubble gum theatre.

I think many ask too much of these live TV productions, wanting the spontaneity of live theatre with the polish of a film edited from the best of a thousand takes.

Eleanor said...

It was kind of like watching "Annie Get Your Gun". It was interesting in a historical way, but it didn't work as well in a contemporary way. When it was new, JCS appealed to younger people. It would interesting to see what the demographics of the audience were and to see some reaction from some younger people not into theater quite at the level of T and L. How many of them thought Alice Cooper was playing Mary Magdalene? He's their grandparents' age. I'm guessing the audience skewed a bit older. The nostalgia was the draw.

EDH said...

And let’s face it; some of those songs are nearly impossible to sing.

Doubting Tom & Lorenzo need to take a shower with me if they demand proof that I can sing every part of JCS.

Fernandistien said...

It looked like "Jesus Christ Superglue".


MayBee said...

EDH-
Hahahhahaha! "I don't know how to love him" is one of my best shower songs.

MayBee said...

It was smart to have a black Jesus, because for whatever reason religion-cynical liberals are more accepting of religious black people.

gregq said...

And let’s face it; some of those songs are nearly impossible to sing.

That is true. The guy playing Pontius Pilate (whose name doesn't show up under the "Cast" heading on the NBC website streaming video of the show) just could not hit some of hte screaming notes of the show.

And when Jesus trashed the Temple, the movie Jesus put a lot more volume and scream (for lack of a better word) into it than the show's Jesus did.

But those are nitpicks. It was a really good show, one of the best productions of it I've seen, and was totally worth the time to watch, even with the commercials thrown in

Ralph L said...

The original cast said Carmen was unsingable, but it's still going strong nearly 150 years later. Will JCS?

SayAahh said...

Thank you for this post and the link to this (IMO) definitive review of NBC's JCS.
As is said at the end of their review "Top this". That is perfectly apt for the review itself.
Spot on.

Otto said...

Perfect camp - frivolous about the serious.

robother said...

Andrew Lloyd Weber, straight up, hold the irony. If you can't take the heat, get out of the Kitsch-en.

robother said...

Until JCS, no one realized Jesus' middle name was Hippy. Neither of his putative fathers, the hard-working carpenter or the guy who laid the foundations, could relate. Must gotten it from his mother, who everyone in 4 B.C. referred to as "Mrs. HIppy."

tim in vermont said...

The guy playing Pontius Pilate (whose name doesn't show up under the "Cast" heading on the NBC website streaming video of the show) just could not hit some of hte screaming notes of the show.


Yeah, he sounded like me "hitting" G over high C. Well, now I know what it really sounds like, I sort of suspected.

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

robother:

Andrew Lloyd Weber, straight up, hold the irony. If you can't take the heat, get out of the Kitsch-en.

Excellent.

mikee said...

After watching the movie version of Hair when it came out on HBO, decades ago, my old friend sighed and said it just wasn't the same without the nudity and live sex on stage, as he had seen firsthand on Broadway back in the day. Of such criticisms does the musical die.

JCS? I see you and raise you Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for silly.