I’ve waxed lyrical about my favourite musicals before – Oliver! in particular. It still is, I think, but the musical that lead me into a rockier direction was Jesus Christ Superstar. I’ve been sparked off to post about it because, belatedly, I’ve started watching Superstar – Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s current TV search for a singer to play Jesus in new production of JCS – arriving at an arena near you (if you’re lucky) this autumn. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to see the arena tour, but if it goes into the West End later, I might indulge…
It will have to be very special to beat my coach trip to London with the Girl Guides to see the original stage show in the early 1970s though. That was such an experience. I remember crying my heart out during the Crucifixion, I remember the simple staging with scaffolding and a light up chequer-board stage which bits of rose up and down as needed. We may even have seen Paul Nicholas (the original West End Jesus), but I’m not sure if that was the case.
Shortly after seeing the show, I’d acquired the sheet music and libretto, and I started to hammer it out on the piano; my favourite song ‘I only want to say’ sung by Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane being written in B flat minor was no obstacle to me! I became near word perfect, and to this day sit me in front of the 1973 film version and I’ll sing the whole way through, with not too many errors and omissions.
Later, I discovered that JCS had its origins in a studio album which came out in 1970. I borrowed the double vinyl lp from Croydon Record Library (!) and taped it. This album featured many rock musicians of the day, Chris Spedding on guitar for instance, and Murray Head was Judas. But I was blown away by the sublime Ian Gillan, the lead vocalist for Deep Purple. Wow! What a pair of lungs, capable of such power, yet also tenderness, and his singing has an edge or grit to it that I find lacking in today’s contenders so far. Mind, they haven’t had to sing the big song from the actual musical for our consideration to demonstrate whether they can do it yet.
Of course the new production, which apparently will be a proper rock one (hooray!), will have its superstars for the arena tour. Tim Minchin will be Judas, I feel his voice may be a little thin for the heavy opening number; Mel C, aka Sporty Spice, will make a fine Mary Magdalene; but Chris Moyles as Herod? Not sure what to think there!
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew the show was on TV, but as it wasn’t on one of my usual channels, I missed the first few shows. Are there any other JCS fans out there?
* * * * *
To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Jesus Christ Superstar – original studio album, remastered
Jesus Christ Superstar [DVD] starring the rather gorgeous Ted Neely as Jesus.