30 Days Of The 2014 Tony Awards: Day #20 - JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Today we continue the 2014 edition of our annual BroadwayWorld feature series spotlighting the very best Tony Awards-related moments of all time with a special focus on a rock opera like no other, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.
How to even describe the incalculable impact that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's groundbreaking 1970 rock opera JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR had on an entire collective psyche at the time that it was released? How most accurately to express the outright audacity of it all and the iconic pop culture lynchpin it represents for an entire generation? Indeed, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR virtually broke the mold of what a musical could be, from its very conception to actual enacting - we must remember, no one had ever created a rock score quite like this before, further compounded by the fact that it was released as a concept album before it was even performed in concert or on a stage, let alone actually directed or produced in the West End or on Broadway. Nevertheless, it nothing short of revolutionary, even on disc - in this case, LPs. Without a doubt, in many ways, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is the show that started it all - not only religious-based musicals as a viable theatrical subject, but the reign of Andrew Lloyd Webber as the world's topmost theatrical composer.
Originally released as a concept album in 1970, the first realization of the iconoclastic Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice score featured rock vocalists in many roles, including Ian Gillan of Deep Purple (and, later, Black Sabbath) and Murray Head. Additionally, vocalist Yvonne Elliman began her multi-project marriage with the musical beginning with the concept album, as well - she would later go on to star in the 1971 Broadway production as well as the 1973 feature film adaptation, directed by Norman Jewison. Yet, for many SUPERSTAR fans, the original 2 LP set is where the best version of the show will forever remain in the minds, hearts and ears - and, considering it was the top-selling album of 1971, it is and was certainly well-loved by the multitudes.
While Tom O'Horgan's visually stunning but concept-heavy Broadway premiere production was controversial and critically drubbed by many at the time, the seemingly perfunctory message and milieu of the show was much more than what it at first may appear to be - there is no question about it, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR rewrote the rules. Lloyd Webber's lacerating score, veering wildly from classical excess to rock debauchery to pop, funk, music hall and beyond, particularly when paired with Rice's acerbic and of-the-moment verbiage in the lyrics, allowed the final result to collectively create an astonishing amalgam overflowing with inspiration and power for any who witness it. Glorious, indeed, is JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR - now and always - and it endures to this day.
Bringing us up to the present day, a 2013 arena tour recently set much of the world afire with a series of sold-out dates across Europe and Australia, with a North American production just announced to entertain in 30 cities coming up this summer - showcasing SUPERSTAR reality show winner Ben Forster in the title role once again, alongside Incubus front man Brandon Boyd and Destiny's Child standout Michelle Williams. Additionally, *N SYNC's JC Chasez is set to essay the role of Pilate, while Johnnny Rotten himself plays Herod. Although the UK leg of the arena tour was filmed and recently released on DVD and Blu-ray, there is something particularly special and incomparable about seeing and hearing this score performed live - and, that very well could be a key to part of the persuasive power that this score commands, no matter what directorial concept and performance style imposed upon it.
So, now, let's look at some of the most memorable JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR moments as they pertain to the Tony Awards.
First up, here is the original Broadway cast on the 1972 Tony Awards.
Now, check out the 2000 revival.
Lastly, here is the 2012 revival led by Josh Young.
As a special bonus, preview Michelle Williams taking on Mary Magdelene's breakout hit "I Don't Know How To Love Him".
So, what exactly is it about JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR that enraptures you and excites you the most? Is it the powerful way that the authors tell the story of Jesus Christ for a 20th and 21st century audience? Is it the unforgettable score? Is it the rich performance pieces within the show itself? Whatever your reason for loving it, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is forever at the right hand of theatergoers looking for a score brimming with excitement, energy and unmistakable electricity. Amen.
From This Author Pat Cerasaro