April 2, 2018

"You gotta give it to him, John Legend tries very hard to look serious as Jesus Christ … it’s not his fault if he’s physically incapable of it!"

How come I — who read the news every day — never noticed there was a "Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert" until the day after it aired? Anyway, this morning I'm reading "Jesus Christ Superstar Live: The Highs and the Lows," in New York Magazine, which I only went to because it has a cover with a pig's nose photoshopped onto the face of Donald Trump. See:



Here's a sample of the show — featuring 2 of the "highs" — "The priests’ geometric black coats. Just look at this gorgeous thing, designed by Paul Tazewell (Hamilton) — an homage to Issey Miyake’s Bao Bao bag!" and the "gorgeously layer[ed] 'he is dangerous'... around the one-minute mark" of "This Jesus Must Die":

78 comments:

rehajm said...

It's the corruption, stupid

The original phrase is the economy, stupid. That's the one that matters and you're not winning that one...

Roy Jacobsen said...

Just tossing out the obligatory "Just imagine if someone had put a pig snout on Obama or Hillary" comment.

Didn't watch the Jesus Christ Superstar "event." Had better things to spend my time on.

Jonathan said...

These guys sound like "Deep State" FBI/DOJ types talking about Trump and his voters.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

We know HOW HIGH Hillary Clinton is corrupt - with actual facts, data, and reality.

The left accuse Trump of corruption - got any proof?

Robin Eatmon said...

John Legend and his wife, Christy, are two people whose projects I avoid due to their political views.

Robert Cook said...

"John Legend and his wife, Christy, are two people whose projects I avoid due to their political views."

Well, that's just dumb.

I don't care about the political views of an artist if I admire the work.

And what are their political views? Run-of-the-mill Democrats?

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Uranium One.

CJ said...

"John Legend and his wife, Christy, are two people whose projects I avoid due to their political views."

I would too, if I knew what projects either had. I have heard of both of them, obviously: John Legend is a singer and Christy (Legend?) is a model but I couldn't name a single John Legend song or Christy whatever photo spread or magazine she's in. Maybe SI Swimsuit? I've seen candid photos of her nude in the water off Miami Beach during a photo shoot, so I guess I know that about her.

Don't mean to do the "who?!" thing that people do about celebrities. I have heard of them both most everything I know about them is their politics.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

Sexist. New York magazine would never do that to a female politician.

tim in vermont said...

The impression that I got from Legend was that he was personally worried about what Jesus would say to him about the performance when he meets him. Plus, they sort of added in the resurrection which wasn't in the original. And where did that bubble gum Christian Pop song come from?

tcrosse said...

Just tossing out the obligatory "Just imagine if someone had put a pig snout on Obama or Hillary" comment.

They wouldn't have to.

tim in vermont said...

If they had done a Photoshop like that when it was called for, of you know who, they wouldn't be dealing with President Trump now. But denial is the longest river in the world.

Leland said...

I heard about the show just a few minutes before it aired. Only because I was at a sports bar and they had NBC on, and in the chyron area it mentioned it was on next. I thought about setting the DVR, because I like Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. But then I remembered that NBC is the parent of MSNBC, which employs host that reminded everyone on Easter that Christians defend White Supremacists. I decided any company that stupid couldn't do justice to a musical regarding Jesus Christ.

Sydney said...

Those costumes look familiar to me. I think they were used in some science fiction movie for villains but I can't place it.

EDH said...

Notice in that high priests clip they switched the Caiaphas lyric from "One thing I'll say for him, Jesus is cool" to "Infantile sermons, the multitudes roar".

You could say both things about Trump, as much of the Deep State conspires against him! (It might as well have be McCabe, Strzok, Page, Brennan, etc. in those "geometric black coats"). And throw in a pig nose from the media.

LOW: The audio mix. The performers kept getting drowned out by the music, the audience, and pretty much everything. It’s always fun to hear a vocal-dependent musical that sounds like it was recorded from inside Jesus’s wine bottle.

As I see it, that's been the problem with all renditions of JCS following the original London Symphony Orchestra concept album cast (Murray Head, Ian Gillian, Yvonne Ell, Barry Dennen, et al.) . Even though I don't believe the original singers were assembled in the studio together for the recording, nobody has ever captured the same nuance of the voices and the interplay between voices.

Last night, I though Judas and some of the other characters were under-mic'd most of the night. The one who I thought did a better than expected job was Sara Bareilles as Magdalene, but her character gets a lot of pure solos.

Levi Starks said...

It’s called jumping the shark tank.

Nonapod said...

Just look at this gorgeous thing, designed by Paul Tazewell (Hamilton) — an homage to Issey Miyake’s Bao Bao bag!"

The general absurdity of a $1000 backpack notwithstanding, those are kind nifty looking. They remind me of those magic snake puzzle things.

FWBuff said...

It was an excellent production, and the performances were uniformly strong. It was by far the best of the live musicals that NBC has shown. The original Webber/Rice work ends with the crucifixion, and so did last night's production, though it was staged with the cross disappearing into a blinding light. No resurrection (unless you want to count John Legend's curtain call at the end). Alice Cooper as King Herod was a standout.

Sebastian said...

For somer reason I missed the front-page pig noses when Hill and Bill were amassing their fortunes through their "Foundation" and CGI.

SayAahh said...

I am disappointed and surprised the professor missed Superstar last night. I was hoping to read her astute analysis this am particularly after all of the Hell/theology posts the past few days.
The NYT review is pretty much spot on but other reviewers have several additional and interesting perspectives worth searching for and reading if you saw the performance last night.
I rarely watch television and was happy to see a production of this quality on usually mundane and highly politicized network TV. In appreciation for the effort I tried to ignore the frequent and intrusive advertising which robbed the performance of its emotional momentum.
If it is rerun or available to watch on another format and you are familiar with it try not to miss it. A worthwhile experience of this legendary ALW/Rice musical art.


tim in vermont said...

No, there was no literal resurrection, but the usual visual metaphor for death is a light going out, not growing in strength. Those of us who are not believers are allowed to discuss the show as art and come to our own conclusions.

The new atheist Pope probably looks at it that way.

James K said...

I thought Legend was one of the weakest performers. His vocals are flabby. The production was over the top, and not in a good way. Like the Rockettes.

Bob Boyd said...

Is an homage to a hand bag really exclamation point material?

tim in vermont said...

Over all it was pretty good, but Jesus and Judas from the movie were far better singers and actors. I still think my Alice Cooper as Endora comment was funny, even if none of you guys did.

The music holds up great, though.

Char Char Binks said...

I happened upon it last night on TV. It was done on a bare stage, and it looked so ridiculous I couldn't bear to watch. Maybe it was good, I don't know.

SayAahh said...

We have our own takes but "the production was over the top" is classic ALW/Rice and is inherent to its artistic value.
I was particularly captivated by the ascension of Christ as the back screen rose then parted to ultimately form a crucifix which then narrowed down. Extremely well done and astonishing. It was reminiscent of the key special effects employed in other ALW productions and was emotionally powerful even to this nonbeliever.
Kudos!

Leland said...

So Tim, how did you hear about the show?

It seemed very poorly advertised. I don't want a lot of network television, but it did seem previous "live musical" events were widely advertised. This one I only heard about a few minutes in advance.

Johnathan Birks said...

Both the Jesus and Mary M. parts (by Legend and some chick I never heard of) were markedly inferior to Ian Gillan and Yvonne Ellman). Barry Dennen's Pilate in the original cast screams "Die if you want to, you innocent puppet!" in true Johnny Rotten fashion; the guy last night practically squeaked the line.

This, plus the often-comic commercial non sequitirs, made last night's performance an shambolic presentation.

Dickin'Bimbos@Home said...

We should do away with the Electoral Collage and let New York and California pick our president.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I never watched Jesus Christ Superstar before I saw the production last night. I thought it was great.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Those costumes look familiar to me. I think they were used in some science fiction movie for villains but I can't place it.

They remind me of Farscape.

https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=hM7BXjdP&id=282C42151E1B28E4F5026A9B91EBDD2AE4FE7ADA&thid=OIP.hM7BXjdP2-D3gjXhgt5ZLwHaFU&mediaurl=https%3a%2f%2fmichellesinclair.files.wordpress.com%2f2011%2f05%2ffarscape-cast.jpg&exph=1293&expw=1800&q=farscape&simid=608029532909930279&selectedIndex=0&ajaxhist=0

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

EDH: As I see it, that's been the problem with all renditions of JCS following the original London Symphony Orchestra concept album cast (Murray Head, Ian Gillian, Yvonne Ell, Barry Dennen, et al.) . Even though I don't believe the original singers were assembled in the studio together for the recording, nobody has ever captured the same nuance of the voices and the interplay between voices.

Was entirely unaware of this broadcast, but, in a weird coincidence, yesterday I came across the original recording while poking around for something else on youtube, and listened. What a blast from the past - Sister Claire's 8th grade homeroom, where she let me play the JCS LPs I'd gotten for my birthday.

I listened to a few clips from the broadcast - seemed pretty good (thought all the high priests were great), but I had to compare Judases on a couple of songs - one thing I remember was how moved I had been by Murray Head's Judas. Dixon was fine, but in this carping old lady's biased opinion, he's no Murray Head. His "Heaven on Their Minds" lacked the anger, distress, and urgency of Head's rendition - I remember distinctly (and correctly, per the latter-day re-listen), the way he spat out "All your followers are blind/too much heaven on their minds". That stuck with me after all these years. But even more so, the suicide and the way Head sang "I don't know how to love him": "When he's cold and dead/will he let me be?/Does he love...does he love me too?/Does he care for me? - the raw anguish. A fine voice, but for me Dixon's rendition just didn't get there.

Def have to go listen to Alice Cooper as Herod.

William Chadwick said...

The corruption I most care about is when politicians bribe the electorate by promising them "free" stuff--that is, stuff paid for with other people's money. "You vote for me, and I'll go pick that other guy's pocket on your behalf." Or as Mencken put it, politicians running on a promise "to turn A loose in B's cornfield." Which leads to elections becoming (Mencken again) "auctions of stolen goods held before the fact.") But "liberals" don't see that as corruption. They see it as noble democracy.

WK said...

Sydney said...
Those costumes look familiar to me. I think they were used in some science fiction movie for villains but I can't place it.

Battlefield Earth with John Travolta. Although that was not a musical as I recall.....

wwww said...



The ending was powerful.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DZvm72jVoAEbqX_.jpg:large


Here's Brandon V. Dixon singing his part of Judas. You can hear him sing with the choir:
https://twitter.com/nbc/status/978355376339927040

Ron Winkleheimer said...

The young white dude in the Sanhedrin scene reminds me of Sting in Dune.

https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=FBn1tTgU&id=D1202CA5CF900145BFA0959ECA59642D70357E23&thid=OIP.FBn1tTgUrBgr5pGc1f8giwHaLY&mediaurl=http%3a%2f%2f3.bp.blogspot.com%2f-240Ir5RXNJE%2fUiGF_SpxWHI%2fAAAAAAAAAic%2fnns4wEvDQdA%2fs1600%2fSting.jpg&exph=1000&expw=651&q=sting+in+dune&simid=608047803756382847&selectedIndex=7&ajaxhist=0

Big Mike said...

I found it by accident while channel surfing. I watched it with growing distaste until halfway through “Everything’s Alright,” at which point I turned off the TV in disgust.

The singer in the Mary Magdalene role? She’s not really a mezzo soprano, is she?

wwww said...


A gif of the final shot of Christ on the Cross rising into a wider Cross. Well done.

https://twitter.com/BroadwayWorld/status/980630347229597701

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

Ron W: The young white dude in the Sanhedrin scene reminds me of Sting in Dune.

Worst.Movie.Ever.

I'm not even gonna look at a jpg.

wwww said...


I saw the last 15 minutes. Kiddos sick this weekend. We had too many things recording last night, so our machine missed it.

Tom Nichols said Brandon V. Dixon's "Damned for All Time" was great. Does anyone have a link to it?

Angle-Dyne, Angelic Buzzard said...

Speaking of theatrical/art work Jesuses that don't cut it, has there ever been a movie Jesus that "worked"?

I'm no expert on movie Jesuses, but from my limited exposure there does seem to be a fatal inability not to make him hopelessly wet. (The Jesus in the production under discussion here seems true to this form.)

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Worst.Movie.Ever.

No argument from me, but I did pick up a DVD for a dollar at a garage sale a few months ago and watched it. Still awful.

wwww said...

Speaking of theatrical/art work Jesuses that don't cut it, has there ever been a movie Jesus that "worked"?


Have you seen Jesus of Montreal?

wwww said...



Whoa. You people are tough critics. I thought the ending was powerful, of Jesus rising up into a Cross with a Light behind Him.

I've long enjoyed this musical. Got fond memories of watching the video with my Jr. High School Youth Group.


Herod's "walk across my swimming pool" is classic. Can't think of Herod without thinking of that line.

Robin Eatmon said...

To clarify my earlier comment...John Legend and wife Christy go out of their way to be offensive to non-progressives in their nearly unavoidable social media life. I usually don't let personal political views rule my ability to enjoy a performance by an actor or musician but I avoid them. He is very talented and I do enjoy the music he created for the movie Moana so I admit I don't avoid him completely.
I love the music of Superstar but the visual productions never seems to do the music justice.

Ann Althouse said...

"I am disappointed and surprised the professor missed Superstar last night. I was hoping to read her astute analysis this am particularly after all of the Hell/theology posts the past few days."

You think I'd have some similar things to say about "JCS"? I think it's very distracting to watch a live TV-theater piece with a lot of lyrics all over the place in songs I don't know. I've never seen any version of "JCS" and my familiarity with the tunes is limited to a couple things that used to be on the radio and that I didn't like back in the 70s when they were new. Back then it used to annoy me when Broadway musicals were said to be "rock" (and that includes "Hair"). So I couldn't get up to speed even on the theatrics of it all and wouldn't enjoy it. As for theological insight... I doubt if I'd have any.

I'm interested in the recent trend of doing live musicals on TV, but I've only watched one of them — "Peter Pan." Not sure why I did that. Maybe because of Allison Williams or because I knew all the songs well and thought at least one of them was excellent.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

To clarify my earlier comment...John Legend and wife Christy go out of their way to be offensive to non-progressives in their nearly unavoidable social media life.

Maybe I'm just old, but I have no idea who either of them are or what their politics are.

tim in vermont said...

So Tim, how did you hear about the show?

My daughter has a minor in theatre education.

Patrick Henry was right! said...

Loved it, except that John Legend lacks both the acting chops and the vocal range for the part.

He tried hard, though, gotta give him that.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Oh, and about the pig snout thing. New York magazine gonna New York.

This is funny and unexpected from Politico.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/03/30/red-blue-america-clinton-trump-country-217760

tim in vermont said...

"Worst movie ever?"

OK, I will file that so I know where to place your future recommendations. Like my sister in law, she thought that Independence Day was a fantastic movie, and The Accidental Tourist sucked. So I just reverse the sign on her opinions and then they are useful.

tcrosse said...

I'm interested in the recent trend of doing live musicals on TV, but I've only watched one of them — "Peter Pan."

Back in the days of Steam Television, this was a thing. The Original Broadway Cast of Peter Pan, including Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard, was broadcast on TV in 1955, 1956, and 1960. Cinderella starring Julie Andrews and Edie Adams was made-for-TV in 1957. There was a musical adaptation of Our Town, starring Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint in 1955. Once Upon A Mattress, with Carol Burnett, showed in 1964.

LarsPorsena said...

I just hummed along with all the tunes during the broadcast.
Me makee sing-sing.

MadisonMan said...

I didn't watch, but many friends did. And loved it.

I've looked at some of the videos online today -- love the music -- and I'd say this one succeeded because Judas was vocally awesome. You can't run this show with a Judas who can't really rock and Brandon Dixon is awesome. Really the strongest voice on the show.

MadisonMan said...

Damned for all Time

LakeLevel said...

Being a long time fan of the original studio album, I thought the music was very well done. The production was moving and visually interesting, especially the ending. I was skeptical of Legend, but he grew on me as the performance went on. All in all, better than I expected and way better than the movie.

Anthony said...

That was the first time I really understood the Passion, having been a young teenager in the 1970s. Murray Head's (did you know he did One Night in Bangkok, too?) Judas was the most powerful voice on the original album. The dude in the movie (which I thought sucked @ss) did a commendable job, but not as good overall. The casting for the album was simply magnificent.

Judas's Death is just haunting on the album and Head's after-death song, Superstar, can still literally bring tears to my eyes.

Also Barry Dennen's Pilate is without peer. He did the movie as well.

They had considered making John Lennon as Christ, but they thought that would not go over well.

I'm not sure the music holds up all that well, though. Seems particularly dated to me.

William said...

That's a forthright cover from New York Magazine. What better way to fight back against Trump's claim that the media is biased.

William said...

I think some of the major plot points are outdated and need to be revised. That whole crucifixion thing is a downer. I don't see why Christ can't marry Mary Magdalene and give the show a happy ending. Such an ending would be more in keeping with the penumbra of the New Testament. Also, Mary Magdalene could be woke, and Jesus can profit from her wise instruction on social issues.

Mark said...

Speaking of theatrical/art work Jesuses that don't cut it, has there ever been a movie Jesus that "worked"?

Jim Caviezel, Henry Ian Cusick and back in the day Robert Powell worked.

Those that did not work -- Max von Sydow (as great an actor he was/is, he did not fit the look), Jeffrey Hunter (just did not have the presence and why they had him appear like the injured Capt. Pike in his beeping box, I don't know). Sniveling Willem Defoe. And soprano/falsetto Ted Neely, don't get me started.

Mark said...

And ANY live musical on TV today is unwatchable because the directors have way too many quick cuts and close-ups. When the image is changing every second or two and you rarely if ever see the entire scene, you cannot get a sense of a whole as you would if you were there in the theater looking at the stage.

tcrosse said...

Wonderful noises from the attic:
Jesus of Montreal

Jim at said...

Well, that's just dumb. - Cook

No. It's called having principles.

There are many, many artists out there - in countless fields - whose work I can appreciate without having them tell me how stupid I am because I don't share their politics.

Leland said...

Thanks Tim. No offense, but that doesn't sound like NBC directly managed to get your attention. Perhaps they could claim "word of mouth", which is good stuff for marketing, but not so good if it is only coming from theater people.

I was out of town this weekend, and spent a bit of time in a hotel room with its limited TV. Fox was heavily advertising the upcoming FIFA World Cup. I watched some Premier Football on NBCSports, but no mention of major broadcast one-off live performance on its main network brand. JCS seems like a great fit for Easter. Yet marketing seems limited. I'm sure this Christmas, we will be reminded several times when NBC will once again show, "It's a Wonderful Life".

walter said...

William said...That's a forthright cover from New York Magazine. What better way to fight back against Trump's claim that the media is biased.
--
Right. At least they didn't portray him as "cock holster".

tcrosse said...

Right. At least they didn't portray him as "cock holster".

Or DickNose.

Christopher said...

Notice in that high priests clip they switched the Caiaphas lyric from "One thing I'll say for him, Jesus is cool" to "Infantile sermons, the multitudes roar".

I noticed that too, what an odd, lame alteration.

It doesn't even rhyme. That section goes:

CAIAPHAS
What then to do about Jesus of Nazareth?
Miracle wonderman, hero of fools.

PRIEST THREE

No riots, no army, no fighting, no slogans.

CAIAPHAS

One thing I'll say for him -- Jesus is cool.


If they focus-grouped the original, effective line and wanted to change it for some moronic reason, they could have at least worked more than two seconds to get it rhyming. "Infantile sermons, the multitudes drool." That was hard, send me a royalty.

SayAahh said...

Live broadcast. A possible brain freeze?

MadisonMan said...

Caiaphas also had a problem with hitting the low notes. He really lost power at the bottom of his range.

Birches said...

Watching that clip reminds me why I don't like most modern musicals. Ugh.

Birches said...

Alice Cooper as King Herod was a standout.

Ok, I will totally watch that.

Christopher said...

Caiaphas also had a problem with hitting the low notes. He really lost power at the bottom of his range.

The Caiaphas on the original 1970 album also had occasional trouble there, especially if he was starting out really low as opposed to working his way down there. But he was better overall than the guy in this live production--although I want to add out of all the clips I've seen I like him best. Haven't seen Alice Cooper yet.

Jason said...

Those costumes look familiar to me. I think they were used in some science fiction movie for villains but I can't place it.

I was thinking Evil from "Time Bandits," and his minions.

wwww said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill said...

"JCS" is crap, no matter the production. You'd be better off seeing a high school production of "Godspell".

Richard Dolan said...

As it happens, several of the lead actors/singers in this production are the children of ministers or otherwise grew up in a religious home. None of them is religious today. The only actor/singer in this production who is a church-attending believer is Alice Cooper, who became a born-again Christian after recovering from his various additions (mostly alcohol). And he plays Herod.

Odd.

Jeff said...

I caught about half of the broadcast. Sara Bareilles was pretty good, but Yvonne Elliman in the movie was a better singer. Alice Cooper was fun.

What I really disliked was the over-the-top audience applause after every. single. number. Couple that with way too many commercials and you have a recipe for boredom.

Rusty said...

Dark City. The movie was dark city