Sunday, April 5, 2015

Family Movie Night: Jesus Christ Superstar

Title: Jesus Christ Superstar
Director: Norman Jewison
Original Release: 1973
Choice: Purple Penguin's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
A rock opera based on the last week of Jesus's life, Jesus Christ Superstar focuses on the interpersonal relationships between Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdaline.  Copious amounts of ink, bile and blood have been spilled over considerations of the humanity vs. divinity of Jesus.  The topic is certainly well above my own pay grade so I won't enter into it here.  I'll focus instead on the artistic side.

Initially, Jesus Christ Superstar (JCS) was just a record album.  Remember those?  The 1970 album's success led to the stage followed by the inevitable movie released in '73.  JCS is, in fact, my favorite production from musical theater's all-conquering tandem of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.  It is a demanding show to perform.  Quintuple and septuple meters predominate.  Male vocal ranges tend to extremes from the screaming Jesus and Judas to the rock-bottom bass of Caiaphas.  The rather minimalist film was shot on location in Israel with many of the performers from the traveling Broadway cast.  Interestingly, both Ted Neeley (Jesus) and Carl Anderson (Judas) had originally been understudies.  Modern elements - clothing, a tour bus, army tanks, not to mention the rock opera music and dance stylings - are applied liberally.

While we are not a religious family, listening to JCS during Holy Week is a long-standing tradition at our house.  As such, our daughter is well-acquainted with the show.  We finally saw it on stage this past fall at the high school in the town where I work.  It was a daring choice for a public high school for both political and artistic reasons but they pulled it off beautifully, even finding a boy to sing the Caiaphas part.  Today, watching the movie was a fine way to celebrate Easter morning.

I am sure the religious elements bother a lot of people but I love JCS.  The story can drag a bit between the big musical numbers but overall, it's a highly enjoyable film.


  1. I was never one for this musical even though I enjoy the title song. The Ten Commandments has been our ritual since I was a kid.

  2. We ARE a religious family and we still love the music and JCS. We were lucky enough to see Ted Neeley perform it.

    Funny story: We've watched the movie a lot. In the opening scenes when Jesus and his followers were in the foreground and the Judas character (wearing red) was in the background singing Heaven on Their Minds, my son walked through and said, "Look,'s Spiderman."

    We still laugh about that.

    1. Ha! Spidey as Judas. I may not be able to see it any other way now.

  3. It is not a favorite. I am not sure why ? Maybe because I was right there in school during the 60's saw it all.
    I did watch bits and pieces of the religious movies on the TV this week. I forgot all the big named stars in them. I saw them all with my family.

    cheers, parsnip

  4. I don't have that movie but on Saturday when I noticed the many Easter movies being featured on TV, this is the movie I wished to see. Our music teacher in high school had the album and played it for us many times.

    1. I am still partial to the original recording but the movie is fun.

  5. I have never seen JCS, but I have heard about it for years. I should definitely watch the movie or see the musical on stage one of these days. :) Thanks for sharing!

  6. I remember records.

    I've always wanted to see this.

    1. The other day, my teaching partner asked our students if they had any idea of the significance of the numbers 33 and 45. They didn't. Most of them have no idea what a record player is.