Good evening, I’m Michael Smol, from Wellington College, and I’m playing one of the disciples in our ever nearing performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. In this blog, I’ll be discussing the importance and power of JCS, as it faces the tests of time.
Jesus Christ Superstar was first performed on Broadway in 1971, just under forty years ago. But despite this relative old age in terms of a musical, Superstar is still as popular as ever, with productions – including our own – taking place all over the world. So why is the show so enduring? What sets it apart from other productions which disappear as the years go by?
Though I’m not personally of a religious persuasion, the story behind the Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice work is an intriguing and also controversial one and this is its power. Some of the most important sequences of the Bible are turned on their heads, as we are asked to question the claims made about the divinity of Christ. We have to consider whether he is a man, a god or a ‘jaded mandarin,’ as Judas puts it.
On the flipside, Judas is no longer the entirely evil backstabber he seems to be in the Scriptures. Instead he is the one truly aware of Jesus, and is a tortured soul as a result. The show leaves the viewer with more questions than answers.
Jesus and Judas, those traditionally black and white characters, have been splashed with shades of grey, leaving two men, both tragically human.
Much of our society is based on Judaeo-Christian beliefs, and these rely on a largely static character of Jesus, with his perfection allowing believers to follow his ideas without questioning them. However, when we are presented with Superstar’s Jesus, our perspective on ‘the son of God’ is challenged. We are as uncertain of his claims as Judas is, and the stories surrounding Jesus become seriously questioned.
But it’s exactly this type of debate which gives the musical such power. It isn’t the sweet story of The Sound of Music; it isn’t the fairy tale of Cats; it isn’t the squeaky clean of High School Musical.
Jesus Christ Superstar isn’t afraid of making its point. It challenges the norm, it challenges the audience and in the process, it challenges us as actors. New viewpoints are uncovered and new questions are there to be answered. And as we are exposed to these new ideas on stories we may have previously taken for granted, it is up to us as individuals to decide where we stand.
PS If you don’t think all this theorising is reason enough for the story’s extended lifespan, I will point out that it’s also a fantastically good musical! And in our obligatory JC pun moment, while it may have occasionally made some people CROSS, Superstar has never PETERed out. Hopefully Wellington College can PILATE it to success.
Michael Smol, Year 12.
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