Yes, I Watched Jesus Christ Superstar. And Here Is Why.


Jesus Christ Superstar–The original US album.

As I have said before, I’m a big musical theater guy. Lots of “Broadway in Chicago,” lots of Marriott Theatre productions, and lots, but not enough, trips to New York City–Evan Hansen, you are next. But I have skipped the live TV broadcasts of the last few years of “The Sound of Music,” “Grease,” Hairspray,” and the like. They didn’t fit into my interest or my schedule.

So why was I glued to my set last night to watch the live concert version of “Jesus Christ Superstar”? It wasn’t the thrill of seeing John Legend flogged (and worse) or Alice Cooper with more subtle makeup than usual. No, the thing that got me following Saturday night’s Seder with Sunday night’s Superstar was nothing but nostalgia, nostalgia for a time long ago in a neighborhood far away.

I was in my mid-teens when the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice double album hit the States.A few songs made radio playlists, but it wasn’t until the Easter following its release that one radio station took the bold step of playing the album in its entirety. Ian Gillian, Murray Head, Yvonne Elliman. Names that I didn’t know, but that I would never forget. I was hooked.

I didn’t buy many record albums, but For Superstar, I plunked down the few bucks at the Morse Avenue record store.  After a week of non-stop listening on our old mono record player I had memorized the lyrics and got my somewhat belated introduction to the birth of Christianity. Not a very accurate view, but at least it filled a yawning gap in my knowledge base.

I was not the only one in my crowd with a Superstar habit. A road trip to Champaign-Urbana turned into a 140-mile long Acappella concert, with  4 male Jewish voices singing every note, every word.  One of my travelling companions from that night died way too young, and I always think of him when I hear the opening notes of the JCS overture. Hosanna, Hosanna.

After the album, Superstar evolved into a concert version; minimal staging, just singers walking to a microphone at center stage. I saw it from the back row of the Auditorium Theatre with a high school sweetheart, my enthusiasm mirrored by her boredom. It just wasn’t a show for everyone! Then came the Broadway musical, the movies, the local theater productions. I can’t recall if I saw any of them. As I grew older my infatuation clearly waned or was buried beneath my studies, my family and my career.

But last night my enthusiasm was back. I watched every minute, and sang along with almost every word. Barb was surprised I remembered it all so well, I was more surprised that there were a few lyrics I had forgotten.

When Barb asked if I wanted to see the production coming to the Lyric Opera. I turned down the offer–I’d rather savor a single glass of a fine old Scotch than drown in an entire bottle.
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