To this day, Jesus Christ Superstar is still one of my favourite musicals which I have not experienced live on theatre. It’s mainly the songs, lyrics, and the score that draws me in and it’s just so sad that there had been so many versions and incarnations already and yet, I have yet to see one live on stage.
The Arena Tour that was to star Michelle Williams, JC Chasez, and Ben Forster was supposed to play here last July would have been the first, but as we all know, that got cancelled for still unclear or unknown reasons.
Aside from the 1970’s classic movie with Ted Neely, Carl Anderson, and Yvonne Elliman, I’ve seen 2 other versions that were released on DVD – the 2000 version with Jerome Pradon and Glenn Carter and the most recent 2012 Arena Tour version with Melanie Chisholm.
The 2000 version is a studio filmed one that does away with the 4th wall, giving a more immersive experience. This is the version that later on went to Broadway.
Here, we get a mixture of the contemporary and the traditional through the costumes and sets. We see more expressions and emotions on the performance as it knows the film will rely more on the performers than on the minimalist sets and looks.
I especially like Jerome Pradon’s Judas, with his devious Jack Nicholson-like stares and his voice somehow matches what you’d think Judas would sound, if Judas sings, that is. Glenn Carter’s Jesus, I found, is better and stronger, and it is no surprise he was able to take his version to Broadway. I don’t think anyone could top Yvonne Elliman’s Mary Magdalene but Renee Castle in the film did well.
When this version made Broadway, Pradon was replaced by Tony Vincent (We Will Rock You, Rent), who in the film, played Simon. This cast was so well put together with names such as The Good Wife’s Max Von Essen, Legally Blonde Musical and Spamalot’s Christian Borle, Allegiant’s Michael Lee, Chicago and A Chorus Line’s Deidre Goodwin, and The Tamperer’s Maya Days, among others.
Fast Forward to 2012 where the UK Arena Tour version was released on DVD. This despite the fact that a different and what seemed like a better version 2010 Broadway Revival that starred Evita’s and the recently concluded premiere Amazing Grace’s Josh Young.
The theme that time seemed to bank on the occupy movement in concert style and while it is an effective and fitting social commentary, the amount of people on stage made it very confusing who to focus on. This was on DVD with close ups and all, and I still got confused due to many things happening onstage. Imagine if this was being watched live.
Don’t get me wrong, the occupy movement theme really went well but it could have been a little scaled and toned down.
Mel C’s Mary Magdalene was better than I expected and I found myself preferring her to Renee Castle’s version. I also found the high priests, now represented as corporate figures, as devious and effective in their roles as their successors.
The North American Arena Tour would have been my first experience with the show but even with that, I did have hesitations because I do think this musical should be experienced in a theatre and not in a concert venue.
Recorded/ On Disc is a series about staged shows I’ve seen on either on TV, DVD or the big screen which I had not caught live as of writing. In other words, filler posts in between seeing live shows 😛
Images borrowed from Amazon.com and Billboard.com