Do you really think we have the resources to help the poor with their lot? There will be poor always, pathetically struggling. Look at the good things we’ve got.
Jesus Christ, Superstar
I’ve spoken to a lot of lapsed Catholics since I wrote the book and we all had a crush on Jesus.
Did you mean to die like that? Was that a mistake? Or did you know your messy death would be a record-breaker?
I’ll tell you one thing, this Jesus is cool.
Last night we saw Jesus Christ Superstar at Stratford. It was my first time seeing any version of this show, live. But I have seen the movie several times. When in the McGill choir, I sang some of the tunes. (I just remembered that today.) And I used to have the soundtrack album—on casette!
I was definitely already a fan of the music. And, this particular production has been receiving rave reviews. So I went in with pretty high expectations.
Very happily, those expectations were met. Standing ovations come cheap these days, but this musical earned the one it got from the sell-out crowd. And I was one of the first to my feet.
This particular musical does not require huge, elaborate sets. A couple of moving risers and a backlit screen were enough to create the different scenes and keep us on track through the last seven days of Jesus’ life. It keeps the focus where it should be, on the songs and the amazing voices singing them: Paul Nolan as Jesus, Josh Young as Judas, and Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene. Some of the best versions of these I’ve ever heard. The production is very fast-paced, lasting only two hours even with the intermissions, moving quickly from song to song, day to day. No time to be bored here!
I have a bit of complex relationship with Jesus. I’m not being entirely sure if he ever existed, and havedefinite doubts about all the whole God the Father thing. But I was raised Catholic, so He’s been part of my life forever, and I still think many of the sayings attributed to him have moral validity. And that yeah, he’s kind of cool. And in this production, pretty darn hot as well.
So I felt all swept up in the Jesus love in the first half. Hosannah, hey, Superstar!
It almost seemed unfortunate that we did have take an intermission break, but the second half does have a very different feel than the first. It’s much darker, as it gets into the Last Supper, the crowd turning against him, the betrayal, the crucifixion. It has a little bit of dialog. The songs are more spectacular, with pauses between (during which people can’t help but clap).
Brent Carver, whose part is smaller than some might expect, does a wonderful job as Pontius Pilate here, as a very reluctant executor. Though where I was somewhat swept up in Jesus-love in the first half, here I got a little distracted by my rational brain. Like knowing that the actual Pontius Pilate was a ruthless tyrant who would have had no such doubts, and that the blame got put onto the Jews instead was just… Well, that caused a lot of trouble later on.
But that shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of this production, as so much of the drama is about everyone (other than Mary Magdalene) turning against Jesus. And Jesus’ staunch refusal to do anything to save himself.
I don’t think this is any kind of spoiler, but the play does not end the same way the movie does. I mean, there’s still no resurrection, but it’s not just people getting on a bus, either. I much prefer the play’s approach, which was more epic and moving.
(And Jean’s take on the whole thing? For a musical, not bad at all. Cool staging of the lashing scene. And Mary Magdalene was a cutie.)
So if you think you have any interest in this thing at all, I wouldn’t hesitate to go.
Here’s a taste (though I think it was even better last night):