Album Review: An All-Female JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Recording Is The Cast Album You Didn't Know You Needed

These Ladies Tell Us Everything's Alright ...

By: Sep. 30, 2022
Album Review: An All-Female JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Recording Is The Cast Album You Didn't Know You Needed
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Album Review: An All-Female JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Recording Is The Cast Album You Didn't Know You Needed Heigh Ho, dear lovely rainbow tribe, Bobby Patrick, your rainbow reviewer is back in CD-Land to offer another broken-down breakdown of a new music release. So, strap in and get ready, as Bobby goes on the record ABOUT the record.

Earlier this year my dears, an all-female-cast recording of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR hit the interwebs. The brainchild of Morgan James, this album was born out of a concert project titled SHE IS RISEN that utilized an entirely female creative team. In fact, all press on this project declares it to be fully female fostered in cast, musicians, and engineers. Combining previously-recorded and released songs from the play with newly-recorded songs added to make up almost the entire score of this iconic musical... And, take it from Bobby, this is one of the best recordings of Jesus Christ Superstar, ever. It is simply superb.

These times they are a-changin' my lambs, and thank goodness, since folk out there, Like Morgan James, are trying new things in new ways with imagination, FLUIDITY, and diversity. For a few years now theatres and theatre makers with vision have produced concerts, revues, and group shows where actors switch roles around in established material. Gender and skin color diversity have actors playing parts that were considered out of their range based on nebulous (read white & male) typecasting. So, an all-female JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR was a statement just waiting to happen. All it took was someone with vision, like Morgan James (who sings the title role herself), an idea, and some crowd-funding to give the world a JCSS everyone can be proud of.

Joined by Shoshana Bean as Judas Iscariot, Cynthia Erivo as Mary Magdalene, Ledisi playing Simon Zealotes, Orfeh covering the Pilate part, Bridget Everett taking on Herod, with Broadway stars Eden Espinosa, Ann Harada, and Gravitte The Great (That's Debbie, to you) rounding out the rest of the cast.

The subtitle HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE ALL-FEMALE STUDIO CAST RECORDING seems strange to us because they have recorded almost the entire score. A small number of songs from the original full sung-through musical were dropped, but trust Little Bobby when we tell you, you will hardly notice even if you are a die-hard fan... - numbers like the OVERTURE, the CRUCIFIXION, JOHN NINETEEN FORTY-ONE, the EVERYTHING'S ALL RIGHT REPRISAL, PETER'S DENIAL - all portions of the score that take up so little time that it's hard not to wonder why they didn't just do the whole darned score. The truth is, though, that the only thing that really hurts us real fans NOT hearing, is the "There they are, they're all asleep the fools"/"Judas, must you betray me with a kiss?" exchange, and since the rest of the album is so fierce, Bobby waves his forgiveness wand over this omission. Every woman here sounds amazing on their numbers, especially THIS JESUS MUST DIE which has never sounded quite this good (sorry, guys). Something in the Gravitte/Harada-helmed number (featuring Bryonha Marie Parham, Ellyn Marie Marsh, and Tamika Lawrence) simply seems more electrifying than ever before. And although giant-voiced Orfeh shows off the spectacular vocals for which she is known, it is worth commenting on how riveting the choices are that she makes as an actress, for they are deeply emotionally informed, making her performance one of the standouts on the album.

SUPER Superstar fans should know that it took Bobby's ears a few minutes to get used to a certain creative choice of the recording. It is both wonderful and important to hear the songs performed by these singing actresses, but there are times when the women have to shift their octaves in order to make the compositions fit, comfortably, in their voices. Originally, these songs were written for men, and it doesn't matter how much skill a lady singer has, there is always going to be a chance that her voice won't go some of the places that Andrew Lloyd Weber wrote them to go, and it becomes necessary to jockey back and forth between octaves - at least one hopes it was a necessity and not an artistic choice because Sir Andrew built the thrills into the songs when he wrote them; making changes of this nature just for the sake of being different seems like an error in judgment to little Bobby, but doing it to protect a performer's voice is paramount. Natch, it may just be the die-hards who notice it, and maybe everyone else will fall madly in love with the tendency that is particularly noticeable on the opening number HEAVEN ON THEIR MINDS. But don't despair, die-hards! LISTEN ON because, by the time Shoshana Bean gets to DAMNED FOR ALL TIME and JUDAS'S DEATH the rewards, they are abundant.

Still-in-all, even with Erivo's gorgeous I DON'T KNOW HOW TO LOVE HIM, and even though Bean is bona fide thrilling, and Orfeh's a revelation as Pilate, it is frontwoman Morgan James who scores the big win here: her GETHSEMANE may be the best ever recorded. This performance amazes us in the progression of the song and the building of storytelling tension. She is on a quest to best herself, until, finally, that 25-second scream. Oh yeah - It's a note, but it's a scream, it is music, but it is emotion, and it takes your breath away - mind-blowing. 25 seconds. Count them.

This All-Female version of Jesus Christ Superstar (*ahem* highlights) is an important one, and it should be considered so, even if only on the merits of its artistic virtues. But a person can't just do an album with an entire team of women without it standing for something, without it saying something about the power of women, the need to empower women, the need not just to tell women that they are welcome at the table, but that the table was created with them in mind. There will be people who don't agree with what these women have done, just like there are some who don't get what's happening with the current 1776 revival on The Broadway. Those people that just don't get it - they just don't have the vision. But the ones who do, the people with open minds, taste, a sense of adventure, and a sense of where the world is heading are going to love the all-female studio cast recording of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. It's actually something that is late on our progressive clocks and should have been done years ago, but, cosmically speaking, it was waiting for this perfect-ideal-super-cast to come along and bring it to life. And now my dear Bobby readers, you know what we're going to say - right? This one is a total...

5 Out Of 5 Rainbows - Pick it up, stream it, and listen to it ASAP

Jesus Christ Superstar Highlights From The All Female Studio Cast Recording is a 2022 release on the Hedonist Records label and is on all digital platforms.