Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

As Easter comes closer, I have to admit I look forward to the annual showing of Jesus Christ Superstar.

I remember when I was a kid and people hated this version of the crucifixion story. It was too secular. The music was loud and bombastic. It seemed to have no understanding of the greatest story ever told. It was blasphemy.

I can’t remember what my very religious grandmother may have thought about the movie. I can’t imagine she was very happy about the movie as she was a bit old fashioned.

Jesus Christ Superstar Ted NeelyI must have known about it because I remember singing the title song and having a classmate tell me I was going to to to the fiery place. Nancy was Catholic and must have heard that from her parents or her priest.

As the years have past and I have seen the movie again. I found it to be heart breaking and beautiful as we walk through the last weeks of Jesus’ life. I always thought that the cast were experimenting with how things happened in that way. I always got the sense that they thought this time it would be different, that they could do this and Jesus wouldn’t die.

Ted Neely was in his prime at the time of the filming of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was young and handsome in that early 70s style. His voice could be gentle and ferocious. The scene in which Jesus destroys the temple sticks out for the anger we seldom ever saw from Jesus. The same goes for the Hosannah scene in which Jesus comes to Jerusalem in triumph.

Later scenes walk us through the various parts of the story in which Jesus confronts his immediate future and what he must do, no matter how difficult. Strangely enough, we never see the resurrection, we never see the next part of the story. It simply ends with the crucifixion and the regret of the remaining characters.

john-legend-sara-bareilles-jesus-christ-superstar-portraitsThis Sunday a new version will be shown live with John Legend in the lead role. If I have learned anything over the years, it is that Legend has a fantastic voice with a great range. His songs have great emotional scope so I feel confident that he can make the role incredible.

These live musical events have been going on for a few years now and they seem to be very successful. It is exciting to see performances in a live setting as you never know what can happen. But the other part of a live performance is that the emotions of the performers are more raw, more tangible.

Because the play was so popular with an iconic performance by Neely, it will be interesting to see how John Legend handles the role. I am also anxious to see Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene and Alice Cooper as King Herod in this production. While not everyone will agree with the rock opera treatment, I find telling this story in different ways brings the story to a larger audience, always an interesting challenge.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.