Tomorrow night, I will be participating in perhaps my very favorite Holy Week tradition - I'll be heading off to see Jesus Christ Superstar, performed by the Salt City Center for the Performing Arts. Sadly, Joe Lotito, the longtime director, died last year, and the theatre itself is no more - the building was forever falling down and 'under construction' and finally sold. But the company still performs in other locations.
If you read this blog, or have known me for any length of time, you know that I *LOVE* Jesus Christ Superstar. I can't remember ever not knowing at least a fair amount of the music from Superstar. We had the record? tape? in my home growing up. But the first time I saw it performed live was when I was in 7th grade. My pastor at the time, Rev. Bruce Webster, took our youth group to see the long running community theatre production at Salt City Center for the Performing Arts in Syracuse. (That year was their 15th anniversary production.) I instantly became enamored with the actor who played Judas. Being an extremely shy person, I never would congratulate him after the show, even though the actors came right out to mingle with the audience after the performance, but despite never speaking to him, my crush thrived, and sparked a fascination with Superstar and Judas that has lasted for over half my life now!
So where has this love of Superstar and Judas taken me?
*I've seen Superstar performed live about 25 times - maybe 2/3 of those at Salt City (yes, some years I saw it more than once), and 1/3 seeing various incarnations the touring version with Ted Neeley.
*I've dragged countless friends and family members, church members, and parishioners along with me to see Superstar, and even gotten some of them hooked on it too, although, honestly, no one is as big a fan as I am...
*I convinced my Junior High Select Choir teacher to let us sing a Superstar medley that I tracked down in 9th grade, and got to sing the solo from "I Don't Know How to Love Him."
*I wrote a letter to now-non-existent Youth! magazine (for UM Youth) asking about whether or not Judas went to hell, after a heated debate with my Junior-high Sunday School teacher. The editor wrote me back a lovely letter filled with words about God's grace that I will never forget (even if I can't find that letter. I'm sure it's somewhere...)
*Two of my friends and I in high-school made a serious attempt (at least serious for our life-stage) to organize our own Superstar production in Rome. Some day, some day.
*My sophomore year, I wore one of my (many) Superstar t-shirts to school every single day for several weeks until the day of the show.
*In college, I wrote my senior religion paper on the relationship between Judas and Jesus in literature, with, of course, a big segment about Superstar. (I just looked at the current course requirements for the Pre-Theology major - I wouldn't even have to take the class I wrote the paper for if I was at Ohio Wesleyan now!)
*Last year, I convinced my wonderful music director in Franklin Lakes to let us focus on Superstar as our musical theme for Lent. For me, at least, this resulted in one of the most meaningful Lent experiences I've had in a long time. Highlights included getting to sing the part of Mary during worship (as close to the role as I will likely ever get!), and our Maundy Thursday Service, with an actor from the touring production singing "Gethsemane," giving me chills.
*Also last year, after seeing the touring production in a matinée on Holy Saturday with my congregation at NJPAC, my mother and I got in the car, drove to Syracuse, and saw the 30th anniversary production by Salt City. And then we got back in the car, and drove back to NJ, so I would be there for Easter morning. It was totally crazy, and involved getting pulled over once, but it was SO worth it!
So, as I prepare to see Superstar again tomorrow night (with Henry Wilson starring as Judas again...), I've been thinking - aside from my crush, what about Superstar drew me in so deeply? Why do I love it so much?
I've always been a fan of theatre, and musical theatre in particular. But Superstar - it was a combination of theatre that I loved, and the faith that was already becoming more meaningful to me. And Superstar brought the Passion story, the story of Holy Week, alive for me in a powerful way. Ever since that first year, I have looked forward to Holy Week very much. To me, understanding Holy Week means being able to see yourself in the story, somewhere. Who would you be? Where would you be? I think that Superstar helped me wonder about those questions in deeper ways.
Judas - my curiosity about Judas is a curiosity about the fullness and boundaries (more accurately, the lack of boundaries) when it comes to God's grace. Romans 8 talks about nothing in life and death being able to separate us from God's love. Who more tests that truth than Judas? For me, wondering about Judas' eternal fate was wondering about God's love and grace and how far it goes. Because, really, aren't we all betrayers, when to betray means to fail, to desert, to be faithless, to go astray? If there's no grace for Judas...
I'm looking forward to yet another Superstar viewing tomorrow night, the perfect preparation for Easter morning.