Ted Neeley in Jesus Christ Superstar for Good Friday

If lieu of going to one of those ultra-depressing Good Friday church services (where everyone silently and sadly files out of the pews in front of that moribund crucifix) spend some time with the original cast of Jesus Christ Superstar! Last year I saw Ted Neeley in one of the first performances of his Jesus Christ Superstar farewell tour, which is still snaking its way around the country! In the L.A production at the Doolittle Theater, Neeley was joined by Yvonne Elliman as Mary, Ben Vereen as Judas and Jack Black as Herod! I blogged about it then and still haven't fully recovered from the sublime experience.

It was one of the most satisfying nights I have EVER had in the theater! And although Neeley & Co. are a bit longer in the tooth, they all brought an intensity and a (dare I say the dreaded word?) gravitas to their roles than no younger actors ever could. The audience (which included Harrison Ford and Danny Bonaduce -- together at last!) went BERSERK! Especially in the balcony where us real JCS maniacs were. Later that night I went on a YouTube/Superstar feeding frenzy and found this clip of Neeley from The Tonight Show (when he could still really nail -- pardon the pun -- the high notes!). And if Jesus IS on the other side, waiting to greet us all, I am sure he has one helluva Tonight Show band backing him up.

Also check out this clip from YouTube of Neeley recently doing the same Gethsemane number on his farewell tour. The annoying words "Promotional Use Only" come and go but it's worth watching. Oddly enough, they keep cutting to the backstage area, where the various Pharisees, disciples and other assorted theater queens excitedly watch from the wings. I love seeing their reactions as Ted gives the performance of a lifetime! Believe me, everyone in the balcony on the night I saw it felt the same. As cheesey as it all sounds, Neeley's tour de force really raised serious goosebumps and brought us all to tears. It's really the only thing Andrew Lloyd Weber has done that I care for. And while I love Robert Powell's blue-eyed intensity in Franco Zefferelli's 1970's miniseries Jesus of Nazareth and bow to the artistic superiority that is Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Jesus will ALWAYS be a hot rock star to me, kicking out the jams and delivering The Good News upon the soaring metallic wings of a noodling guitar solo!

Oh God -- speaking of God -- I finally saw some of Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ while channel surfing the other night! JEEEEEEEEZUZ!!! I mean... wow. I mean... whew. I mean... WTF?????? Give me cheeseball rock opera theatrics over a self-righteous bloodfeast any day of the week.


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