Friday, April 6, 2018

Original Cast of "Jesus Christ Superstar" (feat. Victor Brox) – "This Jesus Must Die" (1970)

One thing I'll say for him
Jesus is cool

Yes, he is – as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, proved for once and for all.  

The original Jesus Christ Superstar album was released the month I started college:

Some Christians thought it was blasphemous, but my friends and I didn’t pay much attention to the theological niceties.  For us, it was just a really good album – it provided more food for thought than most albums of that era, but what we cared about most was the music.  

*     *     *     *     *

Last Sunday, NBC broadcast a live concert presentation of Jesus Christ Superstar in a theatre in Brooklyn.  

Pop stars John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Alice Cooper were crowd-pleasing choices to play Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and King Herod, respectively.  But it was Broadway veteran Brandon Victor Dixon who stole the show as Judas.

Brandon Victor Dixon
Reviews of the presentation were generally favorable.  For example, the New York Times called the telecast a “conceptual and artistic triumph” that was “genuinely thrilling.”

*     *     *     *     *

I was all-in for Jesus Christ Superstar from the opening number.  But there was only one significant problem with the production: THERE WERE TOO DAMN MANY COMMERCIALS!

As I recall, the first commercial break came at about 20 minutes into the show.  The subsequent breaks were more frequent – it seemed like NBC couldn’t stand to go more than two or three songs without showing commercials.

All those commercials absolutely killed the dramatic momentum of the show.  The experience was completely different from watching live theatre.

Sara Bareilles and John Legend 
I wish NBC would have treated Jesus Christ Superstar like a Broadway musical.  They could have shown the first act without interruption, had a commercial-filled intermission, and then gone through the second act without interruption.

I suppose that the chances of a television network doing that instead of shoehorning as many ads as possible into the broadcast are approximately zero.  (By “approximately zero,” I really mean “exactly zero.”)

Which is a shame.  I can only imagine how intense and powerful this production might have been without all the commercial breaks.

*     *     *     *     *

I guess I could have DVR’ed the broadcast – or, rather, I guess I could have asked my son to DVR the broadcast on the basement TV (where our DVR is) and then watched the show down there a night or two later.

But it was a live presentation, and I wanted to see it as it happened.  (I don’t DVR the SuperBowl and watch it on Monday just so I can skip the commercials.)

Thanks for being a buzzkill, NBC!

*     *     *     *     *

I said there was only one significant problem with the broadcast – the excessive number of commercial breaks – but there was actually one other problem.

Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper’s much-ballyhooed portrayal of King Herod was just awful.  Oddly, the problem with Alice’s performance of “King Herod’s Song” – a piece of musical slapstick that’s intended to give the audience a little comic relief before all the whipping and crucifixion nastiness gets going – wasn’t that it was too over the top, but that it wasn’t over the top enough.  You need whoever plays Herod to ham it up big time, but it seemed like Cooper (who just turned 70 years old) didn’t have the energy to do his song justice.

The audience nonetheless went ga-ga over good ol’ Alice.  And when it came time for curtain calls, there was Alice – who was on stage for one three-minute song – taking bows with Legend, Bareilles, and Dixon, who were more or less omnipresent during the performance.

*     *     *     *     *

The lines from “This Jesus Must Die” that are quoted above are sung by Caiaphas, one of the Jewish high priests who plotted to kill Jesus.  We don’t know a lot about Caiaphas, but I’m pretty sure he never said, “Jesus is cool.”

Victor Brox sang the role of Caiaphas on the original 1970 recording of Jesus Christ Superstar, which was the best-selling album of 1971.  (It outsold even Carole King’s Tapestry).   Brox is a white British blues singer who has performed or recorded with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, and many others.

Here’s “This Jesus Must Die”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

No comments:

Post a Comment