Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Jesus" fails to live up to the hype

Last night, the roomie and I did something we absolutely love to do together. We went to the Jube. For the past year we've been hitting up every "Broadway across Canada" event we can fit in, which really just consisted of The Producers (her Christmas gift from me last year) and Mamma Mia (my birthday present from her). For her birthday this year, I got her tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar, a show that she's been wanting to see since she took her musical Broadway class in university. Last night was the night.

We performed our regular routine of pre-show Starbucks and catch-up (these days we don't see all that much of each other, even though we live in the same apartment) and squirmed with excitement.

All of this excitement was for naught. I never thought I'd say that Jesus let me down. I'm a pretty easy person to impress, really. And it seemed like roomie and I were the only two un-enthusiastically clapping politely and remaining in our seats at the end of the show. The entire time I was just thinking about this article from the Journal back in November about how Edmontonians give the standing-O too freely.

In the "Stand Off" which coincides with the article, "Hal" says, "Edmontonians tend to give anyone recognizable a standing ovation. The quality of the performance isn't taken into consideration. It appears that some performers get a standing ovation just for being here."

I think this is definitely what happened here. Ted Neeley, almost 40 years after appearing as Jesus in the rock-opera, has resurrected his role here in Edmonton. Neither roomie nor I was impressed with his very 62 year old sounding voice in the role of a young prophet. He sounded old. His rock and roll wailing grew old fast. If you're going to make Jesus a rock star, make him a rock star.

Last night's show at least was riddled with technical difficulties. From the back of the auditorium we could hear the microphone feedback. We couldn't hear one solo artist who was obviously singing his heart out. Sound levels fluctuated often.

Not to say that there weren't good moments. There were a few good songs, namely the Jesus Christ Superstar title song and the section of the play which featured King Herod. The comic relief. The actor who played Judas was also extraordinary and personally, I feel his talent far exceeded that of Neeley.

Both roomie and I, neither of whom are overly religious, came out of the theatre feeling blasphemous. It irked us how Mary was portrayed for outright throwing herself at Jesus and claiming she's in love with him (whereas our impression from her Catholic and my Lutheran bible-studying upbringings lead us to believe otherwise) and for having it seem like Jesus was falling for her wanton ways. Yes, it's speculated by some that the two may have had a love affair, but there was much lost by this portrayal. Also, Jesus' mother Mary reaching out to Jesus from afar as Jesus wheezes and wails and begs for water on the cross? Someone gave that boy some water, yes? Not here. The two main women in his life merely watched while he died of thirst.

Also, I felt the ridicule of the crown of thorns, the throwing lots for his clothes, carrying the cross through the streets were all completely lost. Because the show didn't feature any of this, which is kind of big in the story. As well as the other criminals on the mount, one asking for a place in Heaven. That's the whole point of Jesus dying, yes? So the sins of others can be forgiven?

We felt as though this Jesus was whiny. Annoying. Very un-superstar. At one point roomie turned to me and whispered, "Will he just die already?"

For the Journal's bit on JCS, go here.


Kaye Bee said...

Hey Elle.. this is a very interesting article as for this semester I have been studying death and dying which included the death of Jesus. As for the question that someone gave him water.. it was vinegar as depicted in Matthew's telling and this was after Jesus asked why god had forsaken him which cause the thunder to roll and the earth to shake (so someone believed he was truly the Son of God and gave him a drink) but yes.. it sounds like a very interesting rendition, considering a lot of the main points were lost. It sounds as if they concentrated more on the "superstar" aspect than the actual story. As much as you may not have enjoyed the show I'm sure K and you still had a great time catching up.

Elle Bee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elle Bee said...

*new comment, edited for spelling...

Oh yes, we had a great date night, even if we found Jesus lacking.

It did focus on the superstar thing, but they also portrayed Jesus as very wishy washy. He's praying to God telling him that he's sad and tired and doesn't see why he has to do it, and then he's telling Judas that he has to forsake him so that he can follow through with the whole dying-for-people's sins thing. I just didn't remember Jesus being so annoying.