Friday, April 15, 2011

Jesus Christ, Warhorse

I'm giving up a couple of hours sleep a night for "hell week", that final 6 days of rehearsal before a big musical. In this case it's the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center Performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. I have a few small parts in the show, but there are no small parts, just small priests and small apostles. And little old men who are certain they've seen Peter somewhere.

This ain't library art - it's our real Jesus.
 It's odd. The show was quite radical for its time. In addition to telling the story of Christ's last days through the scandalous medium of ROCK MUSIC, it also questions His divinity and dares to cast Judas in a sympathetic light. It's a hit single that became a concept album that became a hit Broadway show in the space of a few years (add another couple of years and you have a movie) and in every incarnation JCS infuriated a pretty large segment of the religious community. I suspect that the only reason that there weren't riots over this show is by the late sixties, we were all a little rioted out. If the whole ball of wax was conceived today, perhaps as a hip-hop version starring Usher as Jesus, there would be blood in the streets.

And yet now, it's going to be a community theatre production, playing 2:00 Sunday matinees to what we actors privately call "The Walker Brigade", that predominantly 55-70 year old crowd that holds season tickets. A bit surreal, frankly. And they're going to be grooving along with the music, because some of them were in college when this thing first hit the scene. This show is familiar to them. Probably they'll leave humming the tunes.

Incidentally from what I've been seeing, the show still has the capacity to shock. I have been sneaking into the back of the house during scenes when I'm not onstage. Believe me, it's quite a story when you look at it closely. The bible really knocks the rough edges off the whole Jesus/God/Judas thing, and JCS delights in forcing you to re-examine what people in that extraordinary situation must feel like.

So in the end the show promises to be a balancing act - the old and the new, the comfortable and the shocking, the cross and the switchblade. I wish I could see it myself but I'm busy for the whole run. Let me know how it is.


  1. You are an excellent writer with a compelling way of writing. Never seen you act, but if you are as good as your writing, then you are very good!

  2. Why thank you! Fortunately the success of this show isn't on my scrawny shoulders - we have a great Jesus in the form of Tom Mesmer, and a superlative Judas in Alfredo Miller. I'm just scenery. Scenery that sings.

    The concensus from post-show audience comments is that we managed to be quite moving. Pretty good considering everybody already knows how it ends!

  3. You are a superb writer and I am truly impressed... even if you failed to mention "a once in a lifetime Pontius Pilate."