Thursday, September 28, 2006

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - The Farewell Tour

Tuesday night I had the great pleasure of going to see Jesus Christ Superstar, the so-called "Farewell Tour," starring Ted Neeley, who played Jesus in the movie version of Jesus Christ Superstar. (Check out this youtube clip of Neeley singing his trademark "Gethsemane" on The Tonight Show)

Neeley is now in his early sixties - he's no longer the young 30 year old that starred in the 1973 movie. And he has aged since I saw him touring in the production in 1992 and 1996. But it was still just so awesome to see him perform - his age was very low on a list of concerns! I went to see the production with my little brother, a birthday present from me to him that was as much for me, and in the overture when Jesus first appears, I glanced excitedly over to Todd and leaned forward in my seat in anticipation. As soon as Neeley appeared, the audience went crazy with applause, before he ever even sung a note. And then again when he first sang. And then again with his "Gethsemane" - still hitting the high notes in rockin' style. And then of course for the curtain call, a standing ovation.

As I mentioned recently, I had the pleasure when I was in junior high of meeting Ted Neeley. This was in the height of my JCS obsession, when I would actually wear only Superstar t-shirts for about a month preceding my annual trip to see an area production. He was extremely warm and gracious and stayed to chat, meet, and sign autographs for everyone who was in line. (The cast in general had stayed around, all were very kind.) Check out these reviews here, which also paint a picture of Neeley as a generally nice guy and humble performer. My only disappointment was that Carl Anderson was supposed to perform as Judas, but his understudy was onstage when I saw it, and I never did get to see Anderson perform live in the role.

Anyway, back to the show. Corey Glover, lead singer of Living Colour, played Judas Iscariot. His voice was fabulous, and his final number, "Jesus Christ Superstar" was great. But the rest of the time I didn't really like the way the character portrayed. I thought the blocking was boring - all this fabulous energetic movement, and Judas seems wimpy, head hung, shoulders hunched, and isn't moving anywhere. I can only imagine this is how Glover was directed (at least in terms of where to move when) but I would have liked to see a bolder, stronger Judas. It was cool to see Larry Alan Coke, a Syracuse native, in the role of Caiaphas. I can't imagine hitting such low notes. (And cool that Coke signed my blog a while back!) The rest of the ensemble, the chorus - they were great. The chorus was clear, had great harmony, and sounded much bigger than their number.

The lighting and 'special effects' were also fabulous. Great use was made of hangings to change the scene in the center of stage. Most effective was the staging of "The Temple" - the second part of the number where Jesus is healing lepers. This production portrays the lepers as a mass of people all crying for Jesus to be healed - in his mind - as he is struggling with fatigue in his ministry and uncertainty/worry about the future. I thought this was the best staging of the scene I've encountered so far - made it stand out in a totally new way.

Also curious - a few lyric changes here and there. Not sure why/for what purpose, but for someone singing along (mostly silently!) in her seat, they stuck out.

Check out tour dates here - the show is traveling around the country for a year or so, and making stops in many locales!
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