Sunday, March 23, 2008

Superstar (Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice, from JC Superstar)

Happy Easter:

Despite the fact that only about 5 people ever read this blog, I debated with myself for nearly an hour about what song from my catalog to pick for today's post. It's Easter. So, being the child of the 70s that I am, I vacillated between something from Jesus Christ Superstar and something from Godspell. I know both make some people cringe. Why couldn't I just pick some Jesus song? Well, that felt a little too straightforward for my liking.

This internal debate causes me to go back and refresh my memory about the two "God-themed musicals." Jesus Christ Superstar came first, in 1970, but Godspell followed just about a year later. Both of these musical-plays-turned-movies were written by super-famous folks. Superstar by the amazing Andrew Lloyd Webber who, of course, is also responsible for such small hits as Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera. And Godspell was written by Stephen Schwartz, whose accomplishments other than Godspell include little shows like Pippin, Pocahontas, Wicked, and Enchanted.

Godspell was like Marcel Marceau meets Haight Ashbury, but most of the songs were pretty straight-up "God is love" kinda fare. At Catholic masses all over the place, including the hippie mass my mom took me to at St. Clare's, people were singing "Day by Day." The more radical services included the opening piece, which was a little more raucous - "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord." Like all good hippie mass songs, that one involved guitars and a tambourine. It was all pretty tame.

JC Superstar was far edgier, much harder rock and roll, and the songs didn't really lend themselves to the mass thing. And there was the issue of what might be perceived as some controversial depictions of Jesus' posse: Could Mary Magdalene be a whore andpossibly be a love interest for Jesus? This was underscored (pun intended) by the song I Don't Know How to Love Him, which was sung by the lovely Yvonne Elliman in the movie version (Her other claim to fame was singing background on Eric Clapton's version of I Shot the Sheriff). And then there was the big controversy in my mind as I got older: Why was Judas portrayed by a black man?!?! Well, probably everybody back then was more black than what we think of as "white" now. But casting Jesus as a waif-like white dude and Judas, the traitor, as a black man, struck me as aggressive.

Enough. I chose Superstar. It's the finale, it's the resurrection. That's what Easter is. But it's also two other things. One, the lyrics are a reminder of the questions that continue about Jesus in many peoples' minds. Second, it's an amazingly entertaining period piece - check out those outfits!

1 comment:

alison m said...

This is my choice of rocked out Jesus song:

But that shouldn't be a huge surprise to you.