NBC will re-air the Emmywinning Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, starring John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Alice Cooper, among others.
A rock opera about the Passion of Christ
SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2020 - 12:00am

The concept album of Jesus Christ Superstar shocked a lot of people when it came out in 1970. More so when it opened on Broadway a year later. Though it later became one of the most popular works of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, it was at first deemed sacrilegious and the creators, blasphemous. They did make a lot of points.

Although based on the Gospels, Webber and Rice had the daring to present the last few days and the passion of Jesus Christ from the point of view of the traitorous apostle Judas Iscariot. Then they took a modern look at the intrigues and politics of that time. They also used rock music with contemporary language and even slang in the entirety of the sung-through show. Worst of all, they depicted Jesus as a man.

But art triumphs over everything and there was no denying that Jesus Christ Superstar was a great musical. It transposed God Jesus Christ into the hippie rock world of the ‘70s as a man and made Him and His teachings accessible. What was at first an affront to Christianity aroused renewed interest in religion and a better understanding of Jesus Christ.

What was at first an affront to Christianity, Jesus Christ Superstar — one of the most popular works of Andrew Lloyd Webber (left) and Tim Rice — aroused renewed interest in religion and a better understanding of Jesus Christ.
Photos from Jesus Christ Superstar Instagram page

Still, it happens. After nearly 50 years of existence, Jesus Christ Superstar was set to retire and become a war horse of the theater. You know one of those famous musicals that will be revived once or twice when somebody feels like it or when someone comes up with new ideas for an updated staging.

Not this one though. Remember, Webber and Rice conceived Jesus Christ Superstar as a rock opera. Now, when you describe a show as rock then it is best enjoyed when performed in a roaring amphitheater. And that was how Jesus Christ Superstar returned two years ago.

On April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert was performed at the Marcy Avenue Armory in Brooklyn, New York before 1,500 people. It was aired live worldwide on television and drew over 10 million viewers and truly rocked.

As before, the rock band joined the strings and woodwinds to become an orchestra but just like a real rock concert, it played close to a mosh pit. There was also more glitter, more leather, more biceps and from the audience, a huge dose of electrifying energy. It was a dream come true for Webber and Rice and it was spectacular.

Of course, it helped greatly that the reimagined version had a cast that can hold a packed arena enthralled all by themselves. Pop star John Legend of the hit song All of Me and one of the coaches in the TV talent show, The Voice, played Jesus Christ. It was a performance that wonderfully combined power and vulnerability. His singing was perfect and it seemed like he was radiating heavenly light in every scene.

Alice Cooper was also in the cast. I say that the rock legend was born to strut the stage as King Herod while asking Jesus to “walk across my swimming pool.” Singer and songwriter Sara Bareilles sang with sweetness as a confused Mary Magdalene. Her I Don’t Know How to Love Him was exquisite. And then there was the Motown: The Musical star Brandon Victor Dixon who made for a very strong Judas, both physically and vocally.

Although a live concert, the latest production of Jesus Christ Superstar retained much of the hippie flavor of the original production. When you say hippie, you think of peace and love and that was, or I should say, is, what Jesus is all about. And that does not change at all, no matter what the music. Go with the ponderous Passion of Saint Matthew by Bach, if you want, or a strident native singing of the Pasyon. I’ll take Jesus Christ Superstar anytime. Lent or not.

Have a blessed Easter celebration. Wishing you all a new life, and a new and better world.

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