Tony gets his God on...
I’d actually previously seen a stage production of JCS back in 2002 when the always thoughtful and lovely Mrs. Alva surprised me with tickets for my birthday. That production had Carl Anderson reprising his role of Judas Iscariot and Sebastian Bach was to play the role of the big man himself. Turned out that the former Skid Row front man pitched a drunken fuss and got himself booted from the show in Cleveland prior to the troupe’s arrival at the Fox Theatre here in Atlanta. Didn’t matter, the understudy was fantastic and Carl was unbelievable. It was a great production with a huge cast. Not being a big theatre guy, I assumed that Tuesday nights show would be somewhat similar in grandeur since Ted Neely, who played the role of Jesus in the 1973 Norman Jewison film would be starring. On top of that, I discovered that Living Color front man Cory Glover was to play the role of Judas.
While there were very minor signs of opening night bugs, it was truly a great performance. The production was drastically scaled back in comparison to the 2002 show I saw, but as I said, I’m not really a fan of the theatre anyway. I really care only about the music and the music in fact rocked! Thunder Thumbs played the Doubting Thomas (heh) during our pre-show beers in the lobby, stating emphatically that the nearly 65 year-old Neely would be unable to crank out those wailing screams as he did in the film over three decades ago (think “Get out!” during the money changers in the temple scene). How wrong he was about that. The dude VERY MUCH still has the pipes. Glover kicked major ass as Judas and I have to admit that I felt a little uncomfortable sitting in a Cobb County Georgia theatre while a black man hung from a noose during Judas’s epic suicide scene. I also thought that the Rev. Nelson redneck army might be in full force since the play’s script focuses on a human Jesus and takes a somewhat sympathetic view of Judas’s plight, but it didn’t happen much to my relief.
Director Dallett Norris’s took very few liberties with the script, but his King Herod scene (“You are the Christ, yes the great Jesus Christ, prove to me that you’re no fool, walk across my swimming pool…”) was entertaining and genuinely funny. The music was masterfully performed by six guys that made it sound like triple that number (I’m always amazed at how these touring Broadway bands do that). The score was true to the original film/sound track which I was grateful for since it’s that fucking good to begin with.
All in all, it was more of a Jesus Christ Superstar concert vs. a musical play, but like I said before, that’s fine with me. Hearing Ted Neely and Cory Glover rip through all those great tunes is plenty enough rocking for me. If the show passes through your town don’t miss it.