Ted's latest Jesus Christ Superstar venue was with The Egyptian Theatre Company in Park City, Utah. The show ran from December 15 - 31, 2011. Below are some articles and reviews from this production.. ENJOY THEM ALL!!!
Here is a blurb about this production - typo on Ted's name included (OUCH!):
Jesus Christ Superstar at the Egyptian Theatre for the Holidays
Monday, December 5, 2011
Ted Neeley, legendary performer of the role of Jesus Christ in "Jesus Christ Superstar" will star in the upcoming production of the rock opera at Park City's historic Egyptian Theatre. The shows run December 15 to 31 for the holiday season.
Egyptian City Weekly Blurb 1:
Yes, Ted Neeley has been playing the title role in Jesus Christ Superstar on and off for nearly 40 years. Yes, he is 68 years old. And yes, those simple chronological facts might inspire the snarky, nigh-blasphemous suggestion that he’s old enough to be Jesus’ father. But fans of his iconic portrayal continue to travel from around the world to see him—and his latest stop is for a two-week run in Park City.
The 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical was controversial from the outset in its depiction of the last week of Jesus’ life, especially due to its somewhat sympathetic portrayal of Judas. But the powerful production still has its admirers, especially when Neeley is donning the robes to play Jesus. Joining a local supporting cast, Neeley once again gives himself over to a part he estimates he has played more than 1,500 times. You, too, can find out “what’s the buzz.” (Scott Renshaw)
Jesus Christ Superstar @ Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main, Park City, 435-649-9371, through Dec. 31, $40-$70. ParkCityShows.com
Date: Dec 15, 2011
Time: Times Vary
Address: 328 Main, Park City, 84060
Where: Egyptian Theatre
Egyptian City Weekly Blurb 2:
Jesus Christ Superstar
Starring the incomparable Ted Neeley as Jesus! A super-hipster Rock-Opera loosely based on the last week of Jesus's life, as seen through the eyes of disenchanted disciple Judas Iscariot. Is Jesus a man with a dramatic new message or a Superstar, a god?
Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Tim Rice.
Originally produced in 1971, it was feared Jesus Christ Superstar may to be too controversial for the stage. But after a 720-show run as a box office hit, it was made into a movie in 1973, starring Ted Neeley, who also played this role on stages worldwide.
Ted Neeley returns to the role he made famous this December at the Egyptian Theatre! No one does it better!
Shows: December 15-18; December 20-23; December 26-31. Times vary. Check the website.
Date: Dec 15, 2011
Address: 328 Main, Park City, 84060
Where: Egyptian Theatre
Here is a article about this production:
Is Ted Neeley your personal Jesus?
Stage » Think you know Jesus? Actor Ted Neeley has embodied the character for 40 years.
Ted Neeley, who played the title role in both the Broadway and 1973 film version of "Jesus Christ Superstar," will don his sandals once more for a production at Park City's Egyptian Theater, Dec. 15-31. Courtesy Joan Marcus
At a glance‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
Ted Neeley, considered the definitive interpreter of the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock musical, stars.
When » 8 p.m. Dec. 15 and 16; 5 and 8 p.m. Dec. 17; 6 p.m. Dec. 18; 8 p.m. Dec. 20-22; 5 and 8 p.m. Dec. 23; 8 p.m. Dec. 26-29; 5 and 8 p.m. Dec. 30 and 31
Where » Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Park City
Info » $40. Call 435-649-9371 or visit www.egyptiantheatrecompany.org for more information.
By Ben Fulton
Updated 1 hour ago
When you land the role of the century to play the founder of the world’s largest religious denomination, you’d be a fool to give it up.
At age 68, at least 30 years older than most scholars believe the historical Jesus was at his death, Ted Neeley still has the spirit of the role.
The Texas native first played the title role in "Jesus Christ Superstar" in 1971, in the Broadway production directed by Tom O’Horgan. Then he scored the lead role for the 1973 film version directed by Norman Jewison.
The need for steady work aside, Neeley said there are more enduring reasons he continues to play Jesus. For starters, it’s an ever-changing job.
Once considered the height of blasphemy among the faithful, the musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber now is considered a Sunday-school staple in some churches. The role changes depending on the cast and production. Finally, as an actor, the role has led to intense encounters with people who have their own ideas of what Jesus did, meant or said.
"I’m just a rock ’n’ roll drummer from Texas who thought he could act and had the ability to hit all the high notes," Neeley said during a phone interview from Park City, where he stars in Egyptian Theatre’s production of the musical, which opens Thursday, Dec. 15, for more than two weeks. "I’m so lucky to have this role. I’m a conduit. I’m not interested in foisting beliefs on people, but I am interested in conversation so that perhaps we can find the answers together."
What we can we learn about Jesus from you, the man who’s made portraying him something of a life calling?
Perseverance. When you’re dealing with one of the most famous figures in the world, the last thing you want to do is step over anyone else’s religious beliefs. It’s not a work that deals with religion so much as the last seven days of the man called Jesus, as seen through the eyes of his contemporaries.
Were you raised in a religious household?
It would be impossible to grow up in Ranger, Texas, without religion. I was in church before I was in school; raised Southern Baptist.
In what ways are you religious or spiritual today?
If I’d started acting this role as an atheist, I would have certainly changed my views by now based on people’s responses to the production. I’ve been able to talk to people all over the world, thanks to this piece. I’ve heard from lots of people that they found their spirituality through watching the film or seeing a live production. We all have that spiritual connection. We’re all connected as human beings on one planet. I’m preaching again. Sorry ’bout that.
A video interview by Ted on CBS This Morning - 12/9/11::
(NOTE: THE VIDEO AT THIS LINK LISTS TED - (as written below) - BUT THE VIDEO IS AN INTERVIEW WITH SANTA AT THIS TIME)
Casey is at the Utah State Fair Grounds for the Dicken's Festival today on 2News This Morning! Click on the '2News This Morning' icon below and check out the videos.
Ted on Good Things Utah- 12/19/11:
We were excited to have Ted Neely on the show today. He is best known for performing the title role in the film “Jesus Christ Superstar” in 1973.
Park Record Article - 12/13/11::
Ted Neeley returns to Jesus at the Egyptian Theatre
Actor to resurrect his most famous role
Scott Iwasaki, The Park Record
Posted: 12/13/2011 04:42:30 PM MST
Ted Neeley never wanted to play the title character of the film version of the award-winning Broadway musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," a role that would forever change his life.
No, the actor/musician from Texas had his eye on another character, Judas, when he stepped up for the audition in 1973.
"Honestly, I had no desire, whatsoever, in getting anywhere near the role of Jesus, because everybody, no matter what their faith may or may not be, knows something about him," Neeley said during a rehearsal-break interview with The Park Record. "Few know anything about Judas Iscariot, other than think he's the bad guy, and I wanted to attempt that role."
As fate or heaven would have it, Neeley didn't get the part, but the director Norm Jewison asked him to audition for Jesus.
"When the director says 'Try out for another role,' you don't say, 'I don't think it's for me,'" Neeley said with a laugh. "You say, 'Sure.'"
Neeley, who has resurrected his film role for the live stage a reported 1,700 times, will once again ascend to the stage to play the Savior in the Egyptian Theatre's production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" that will open on Thursday, Dec. 15 and run on select days through Dec. 31.
Although Neeley said he has been "blessed" by playing Christ over the years, he still thinks about how he would have portrayed the betrayer.
"To me, Judas is still a misunderstood character, that is, if the history is correct," he said. "I think Judas felt he was doing the right thing and couldn't understand what was going on with this Jesus guy."
The one thing Neeley loves about the musical is the juxtaposition of the two characters.
"The one major advantages of the concept of 'Superstar,' is that (lyricist) Tim Rice was able to jump into the books of the New Testament and pull out a storyline that, in essence, is about Jesus, but seen through the eyes of all his contemporaries, be they friends or enemies, and told through the eyes and spirit of Judas, who is the narrator," he explained. " doing so, the show compares the journey of both Jesus and Judas simultaneously."
Neeley grew up in the small-town surroundings of Ranger, Texas, with a talented family.
"Everybody was very musically inclined, but never became performers, so I was the black sheep, if you know what I mean," he said with a laugh. "I was interested in playing music since the day I was born. I started playing drums and was the member of a four-piece band. We had two guitarists and a bass player, but no drummer, so I volunteered."
In the early 1960s, Neeley headed the Teddy Neeley Five and recorded for Capitol Records. His music led him to other creative endeavors.
"I was able to get in shows like 'Hair,' 'Tommy' and 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,'" he said.
It was his portrayal of Claude, the lead role in "Hair" that caught Jewison's attention.
(Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Theatre) Actor Ted Neeley, who played the title role in the film "Jesus Christ Superstar" in 1973, will resurrect the role for the Egyptian Theatre's production that opens on Thursday, Dec. 15.
(Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Theatre) Ted Neeley as Jesus Christ gives a sermon in a recent production of "Jesus Christ Superstar." Neeley has played the role more than 1,700 times in his career.
"Fortune moved me to the other side of the coin," Neeley said. "I gave it a shot and here I am yammering about it after all these years."
Because of its story and music, Neeley said he isn't aware of any other kind of production that would lend itself to repetition like "Jesus Christ Superstar."
"First and foremost, I love the score. I love the musicality of it and it's based on such a magnificent historical concept," he said. "Everybody knows about it. You don't have to carry signs to explain what you're doing.
"People who come to see it have their own opinion of what they're coming to see, and a lot of them have heard the music by Andrew (Lloyd-Webber)," he said. Those who haven't and see the show for the first time usually become very supportive of the show."
That makes it easy for him to revive a role, although at 68, he is a few years more than double the age when Christ was reportedly crucified.
"They always say it's wonderful to come back to Jesus," he said with a laugh. "Sorry, I can't avoid saying things like that. I've been doing this for so long and they just come to me, but Jesus is always there with open arms and listens to what I have to say.
"Seriously, because of its subject matter and the compassion of the piece itself, I have to continually do research," Neeley said. "Every time I do the piece, there is more information I can garner from the wonderful books that have been published in the last several years on the subject.
"Then you add the fact that what Andrew did with the score of the piece and the way it interweaves the characters and how the audience can experience the passion of the piece through the music and it's easy to see why I can never tire of being a part of the ensemble with other people. In fact, we're rehearsing it now and it's like a new experience for me."
For the Park City production, Neeley considers himself "the new kid on the block."
"It's an entirely new cast, but this cast is wonderfully talented," he said. "It's fresh and beautiful and they love what they're doing, which is completely different in the overall structure than any production I've ever done, so that's a welcome challenge and a chance for me to learn something new about the piece."
Neeley is also honored to work with Egyptian Theatre manager Randy Barton who plays Pontius Pilate.
"He's outrageous," Neeley said of Barton. "We've communicated over the past few months by phone and email, and he's got an incredible sense of humor. This is the first time ever, where the general manager of the theatre is going to be on stage with us performing."
Another new aspect is the intimacy of the space.
"The intimacy of the production has always been there, but not in this particular fashion, because this theatre has tables that run up to the stage," Neeley said with a laugh.
"The challenge is not stepping on the tables in the front row or sitting down in somebody's drink. There is a moment in the second act during the Pilate sequence, where I could literally reach over and grab a glass of water from somebody.
"I think maybe when it comes to the Last Supper, I may have to bring more bread and pass it out," he chuckled. "We cannot be selfish, now, can we?"
The Egyptian Theatre's "Jesus Christ Superstar" will open Thursday, Dec. 15, and run on select dates through Saturday, Dec. 31. Tickets are $40 to $55 in advance or $45 and $60 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.parkcityshows.com or calling (435) 649-9371.
Standard Examiner Article - 1215/11::
Ted Neeley: Playing Jesus doesn't get old, even after 40 years
(Caption reads: Ted Neeley as Jesus in a teaching moment with Kate Smith as Mary and Carleton Bluford as Judas (from left) during a dress rehearsal from "Jesus Christ Superstar"at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City.)
What would Jesus do? Ted Neeley has asked himself that question numerous times over the years — especially when confronted by someone who may not have his same appreciation for the show that has defined his life.
Neeley is reprising his iconic role as Jesus in the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which opens Thursday at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City.
“People have their own set of values and beliefs, no matter where they come from,” Neeley said in an interview with the Standard-Examiner. “I feel my responsibility being connected to this piece is to remember as they say, ‘What would Jesus do?’
“I think first and foremost he would listen to what people have to say and engage them in conversation. I don’t care if people come to me and say it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever experienced in all their lives, or it’s the complete opposite where they say, ‘It’s the worst piece of blah blah blah that I’ve ever known.’ I’m going to talk to them about it and be open to what they have to say. Through that, I learn something new each day to add to the performance that night. It’s remarkable. What other project could you do that with?”
A superstar is born
When it first arrived on the scene in the early 1970s, “Jesus Christ Superstar” was condemned as sacrilegious and blasphemous by religious groups. Neeley understudied Jesus in the original Broadway musical, played the title role in the first Los Angeles stage production and starred as Jesus in the 1973 movie. While the show doesn’t draw nearly the ire it used to — and is now embraced and performed by some religious organizations — Neeley has had to deal with his share of controversy and raised eyebrows over the years.
If protesters were outside a theater, for example, Neeley often tried to talk to the protesters and, in many cases, invite them in to see the show as his guests.
“I’ve never once had a person walk away being unhappy with the experience, because it’s not what the people expect who feel it might be blasphemous,” Neeley said. “Once they see what we are doing, they understand that it’s not based upon anything that could be blasphemous. It’s based upon a concept about the last seven days of the man called Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of his contemporaries. It’s not disavowing anything. It’s talking about how people may have perceived this man who created such massive miracles for all of us.”
The original Broadway production was directed by Tom O’Horgan, famed for his involvement in other rock musicals of the ’70s, including “Hair,” which also starred Neeley as Claude. “Jesus Christ Superstar” was first created in 1969 as a concept album by the then-unknown composer/lyricist duo of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. After it premiered on Broadway, it was turned into the movie starring Neeley and directed by Norman Jewison.
“I shall forever be 33, thanks to that film,” said Neeley, who is now 68 but said “age is absolutely of no consequence” when it comes to his continued involvement with the show.
Neeley has enjoyed a career in music and has starred in several acclaimed revivals and touring productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Although he has not kept an exact count, Neeley estimates he has performed the role of the carpenter from Galilee more than 3,000 times now.
That level of involvement has left this diminutive actor and singer understandably protective of the show.
“This is a child to me,” he said. “This is my father and mother to me. This is my spiritual existence to me.”
Neeley is keenly aware of the devout fan base around the world who also feel a spiritual connection with the show’s music and message. Ted-Heads, as his uber-fans are called, host countless fan websites devoted to Neeley. In a press release, the Egyptian Theatre management stated that it is aware of several people traveling from as far away as Germany just to see Neeley play Jesus again.
“People come into the theater, no matter where we are, with their hearts open about this piece,” Neeley said. “They sit down in that theater, and the energy that they throw up on that stage is absolutely remarkable, and then we do our best to throw it back. So it’s this wonderful cycle of positive energy and support that goes on during that two-hour performance, and it happens every single night.”
Neeley’s passion and knowledge of the piece was evident during a dress rehearsal earlier this week as he gently but firmly guided the nine-piece band during the heart-wrenching “Gethsemane: I Only Want to Say” number.
It was obvious Neeley is fully invested in the production and takes his portrayal quite seriously.
“Here’s a man who is challenged with accomplishing that which he came to do and feeling that he hasn’t done what he was supposed to do,” Neeley said of the soul-searing scene. “Who can he talk to? He turns and talks to his dad. That’s what it is, a personal relationship and seeing a man who is questioning his purpose. What’s better than that for us to relate to on a human level?”
Although he did look over a copy of his original Broadway score on his flight to Utah, Neeley said, the music and lyrics are permanently “embedded in a beautiful sanctuary in the corner of my brain.”
Playing the same role so many times would be a challenge for even the most talented of performers, but Neeley said it has never bored him.
“I can walk into the theater after having had the worst day of my life and the minute I hear that overture music start, it takes me somewhere else,” Neeley said. “It’s never boring, it’s never tiring and it’s never something you go, ‘Oh God, I have to do that again?’ I can’t wait to get up there and have the opportunity to feel that again with the audience and the cast and the crew and the band and everybody.”
At the end of the day, this Texas-born rock ’n’ roll drummer describes himself as someone who got lucky with the part of a lifetime that not only affected millions around the world, but forever changed his life as well.
He credits the show for not only his career and spiritual life, but also another important aspect of his life.
“Had I not been a part of this, I never would have met my wife, so this has turned my life around in the most positive of ways,” Neeley said. “I have been so fortunate to be able to ride this beautiful wave for so many years. It’s remarkable the way people treat me — my goodness. I wish you seriously could stand in my sandals and just see what it’s like.”
A second Standard Examiner Article - 1215/11::
WSU student stars as humanized Judas in 'Superstar'
(Caption reads: Kaysville native Latoya Rhodesas a Soul Sister in "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City.)
(Caption reads: Willy Richardson (left) as the apostle Simon in one of the show's energetic dance numbers.)
(Caption reads: Ted Neeley as Jesus and Kate Smith as Mary stand on a platform as Willy Richardson playing Simon (front) leads the cast in a lively dance number during a dress rehearsal from "Jesus Christ Superstar"at the Egyptian theatre in Park City.)
"Jesus Christ Superstar" stars the legendary Ted Neeley, but it could be argued that the real star of the story is Judas.
Weber State University graduate Daniel Simons is directing the rock opera, which he said is one of his favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice collaborations. Simons has performed in it three times, including playing Judas in the Park City theater's 2005 production.
"It's gorgeous music and it's good storytelling," Simons said. "It's told through the eyes of Judas, so it's a very different perspective from what people are used to expecting for the story of Jesus Christ. But it's good, it's really good."
The wayward apostle, played by North Ogden actor and WSU student Carleton Bluford, is central to the storyline and acts as both narrator and the show's main antagonist.
But "Jesus Christ Superstar" presents Judas as more of a flawed man than supervillain.
Ironically, when Neeley first learned about the show back in the '70s, he wanted to play Judas.
"I didn't want to touch the role of Jesus," Neeley explained. "Everybody in the world knows what Jesus Christ is about, but nobody really had a focus on Judas, except that he's the bad guy."
Ultimately, Neeley was cast as Jesus' understudy in the orginal Broadway show, and the part of Judas went to Ben Vereen and later to Carl Anderson.
"It should have been called 'Judas Iscariot Superstar,' but think about the ramifications of that," joked Neeley.
Bluford is pumped about playing Judas and said the show puts the apostle in a new light.
"I think he definitely did love Jesus and was one of his right-hand men," Bluford said. "Judas did what he did because he loved Jesus. I'm not sure he knew that it would go as far as it did, but you kind of see the whole story through Judas' eyes. You get a sense that he is more of a victim than he is a villain. He's a human being
trying to do the best he can, and things get out of hand ... of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions."
Over the course of the show, Bluford said, his character basically goes insane as Jesus' path to the cross unfolds and Judas ultimately betrays his friend and savior with that famous kiss.
One of the show's most popular melodies, "I Don't Know How to Love Him," is reprised in the second act when Judas comes to the end of his own tortured journey and takes his own life.
"It's a deeply emotional part and it's really extremely hard," Bluford said. "The whole show is pretty hard, and every night when I do it, I get a little feeling in my stomach when that is coming up because I know that I have to put so much into it and it's so hard. It takes a lot out of you and it takes a lot to actually do it justice ... but I really do feel that it will be pretty powerful."
Bluford doesn't think the focus on Judas detracts or misrepresents Jesus' message at all. Rather, he believes the show promotes faith and bolsters Jesus.
"In fact, I think if you watch it, no matter what your denomination, you will see a human being struggling and going through something that we all do. And that makes you love him and Christianity even more."
It's not 'Joseph'
The production is a unique opportunity for Utah audiences because "Jesus Christ Superstar" is a show not often performed in Utah, unlike its much lighter cousin "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" -- also written by Webber and Rice.
The timing of this production during the Christmas season is unique, Simons said, and offers additional relevance as the story celebrates the life, love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Simons hopes audiences don't shy away from the production. The musical does not call into question the divinity of Jesus, but rather examines how those around him -- both friend and foe -- interpreted his mission and message.
"The key word is 'superstar,'ââââ" Simons said. "It's just like we still do today with the paparazzi and with creating our idols. The viewpoint of the story is that he (Jesus) had become this superstar and his message was being overrun by his stardom, which is true. It's just a different perspective on a really great story."
One number in the show, which Simons acknowledges some may view as a little irreverent, is the Charleston-inspired piece "King Herod's Song," which puts the spotlight on a swishing, simpering and sin-celebrating Herod, who has a lot of "flair."
"And when I say flair, I mean flair,"Simons said. "It provides some comic relief and John McBride is playing that part fantastic, I would say even fabulous. But it fits into the context of the show and it is Herod. It's a moment in the show that tells the appropriate story."
As for the rest of the show, Simons said he is not pushing the edginess -- as other productions have been known to do over the years. Instead, Simons, his cast and crew are trying to deliver a production that is not only a visual treat with gorgeous costumes and a stunning set, but also a compelling message that is both exciting and inspiring.
"We're staying close to the story," Simons said. "It's exciting and it's fun and its very, very moving. But I would say the last thing that it is is blasphemous."
Top of Utah Superstars
The Egyptian Theatre’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a rock ’n’ roll look at Jesus’ footsteps through ancient Palestine, has some impressive Top of Utah connections.
The show is directed by Daniel Simons, one of the founders of the Dark Horse Company Theatre. In addition to Carleton Bluford who is playing Judas, the show also stars WSU students Andrew Nadon as Annus and Willy Richardson as Simon. Richardson also served as assistant director and choreographer. Simons’ wife Ginger Bess Simons, also a WSU graduate, is playing the piano for the show.
“I tend to fill almost all of the shows I direct with Weber State students just because they are the best trained people in the state for this type of work,” Simons said.
The cast also features Jonathan Scott McBride, who studied theater performance at Utah State University, as King Herod, as well as several other performers with Top of Utah ties, including Tyson Baker, Aron Cole, Alicia Washington, Elise Groves, Michael Hernandez, Gamyr Worf, Shelby Ferrin and Latoya Rhodes.
Rhodes, who grew up in Kaysville, said the show is not only soul-stirring, thought-provoking and tear-inducing, but also features lively and energetic dance numbers celebrating the life of Jesus.
“There’s a lot of dancing and Willy did a great job with it,” said Rhodes, who plays one of the Soul Sisters (Judas’ backup singers) in the show’s climatic number, “Superstar.”
“There’s definitely a ’70s feel and bounce to it. It has more a free fluidity and modern dance feel to it. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very thoughtfully done.”
A review in The Salt Lake Tribune:
Jesus Christ Superstar shows off its savoir-faire
Review » Neeley plays Jesus, fortified by a cast of true believers, in Park City.
Ted Neeley, who played the title role in both the Broadway and 1973 film version of "Jesus Christ Superstar," will don his sandals once more for a production at Park City's Egyptian Theater, Dec. 15-31. Courtesy Joan Marcus
At a glance
‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Neeley redeems the role as Son of God once more in a production that, while not a miracle, consistently inspires.
When » Sunday, Dec. 18, 6 p.m.; Dec. 20-22, 8 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 23, 5 and 8 p.m.; Dec. 26-29, 8 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, Dec. 30, 31, 5 and 8 p.m.
Where » Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., Park City
Info » $40, at 435-649-9371 or www.egyptiantheatrecompany.org.
Running time » Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.
By Ben Fulton
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Dec 16 2011 02:20PM
Updated Dec 21, 2011 09:23AM
There are plenty of reasons to feel sorry for all the fuddy-duddies offended by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” when the musical hit a Broadway’s stage in 1971.
Looking back now, in an era where Evangelical youth form their own God-centered rock bands, this granddaddy of all rock-opera music seems downright quaint. It boasts a musical soundtrack with “wah-wah” electric guitar solos and “groovy, man!” ethos. And the script makes an earnest attempt to fit the founding figure of the world’s largest religious movement into a pair of brand-new contextual sandals.
It’s only when you see the production again, as they say, for the first time, that you realize why it sparked so much controversy throughout the 1970s and beyond. Stephen Sondheim may have given us the first musical to shock with “Sweeney Todd.” Webber, teamed with Rice, gave us perhaps the first truly revolutionary musical.
You’d be well within your rights to dislike “Superstar.” All the Webber trademarks are here. Its songs are linked in the style of a chain-smoker who can’t pause long enough to enjoy the fresh air of dialogue. It’s stuffed with cramp-inducing, hyperbolic scenes that demand hyperventilating acting.
And yet, “Superstar” asked us by the millions to reconsider a figurehead we were so certain we already knew. Without it, the Jesus Seminar of scholars who dared summon the historical Jesus against official church versions might have waited longer than 1985 to start work.
You won’t find a more authentic standard-bearer for the role than Ted Neeley, cast 1971 for the Broadway production directed by Tom O’Horgan,then again for the 1973 film version directed by Norman Jewison.
Ye of little faith might say that Neeley’s voice thins during his “sotto voce” lines, lending shaky turns here and there to his umpteenth turn at the part for The Egyptian Theatre Company’s production, running through Dec. 31. And at 68, it must be said he can’t quite convey the Savior’s radical fire in ways a younger actor could.
But Neeley still hits those famous high notes with aplomb — most notably in “The Temple” scene — and he’s got every facial expression nailed to pious perfection, all the way down to crucifixion time. Most important, his mere presence seems to rally the ensemble cast to play every scene for all its worth, despite the limits of the Egyptian’s small stage and absence of a musicians’ pit, which means treacherous competition with the backstage band for every singing part.
William Richardson as Simon lends the production a vital sense of “hippie” flavor throughout, with Jonathan Scott McBride camping up “Herod’s Song” for all its worth.
The central roles of Judas, played by Carleton Bluford, and Mary Magdalene, played by Kate Smith, remain stalwart throughout as well. Bluford, in particular, offers a robust, tortured Judas ripe with confusion, contempt and regret at the character’s every turn. By the time Smith sang “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” the audience had been placed firmly back in the loving cradle of the 1970s. That’s no small feat.
All that’s holding this production back from its heavenward aspirations, really, is the small stage and dampened acoustics of the Egyptian Theatre itself. So, while not quite a religious experience, and certainly no miracle, this “Superstar” inspires all the same.
A review from Betsy's View - 12/18/11
What’s the Buzz? Ted Neeley and Jesus Christ Superstar Have Heaven on Their Minds in Park City
Posted by Betsy Hijazi • December 18, 2011
I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know the words to Jesus Christ Superstar (JCS). As a child, it was one of my mom’s favorite albums, and was played frequently in my house. I knew all the words and I loved singing Mary Magdalene’s I Don’t Know How To Love Him. It also cursed me, because if I ever got that tune in my head, it would literally stay there for days, no matter how hard I tried to get rid of it. As I grew older, I didn’t sing or think of JCS much because of this curse. Better to not think of it than to hum that one song for days on end. Luckily, I grew out of that in my 30s and came back to loving, humming, and singing the songs without being haunted by them.
If you love the soundtrack to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, then you probably won’t find it strange to hear that the music is so engaging that I usually press play on my MP3 player as I step onto the elliptical trainer at the gym. It starts out slow and steady with the Overture for my warm up, then quickly moves me into a heart pounding Heaven on Their Minds. My favorite JCS album is the 20th Anniversary Cast Recording, and I usually play the whole album through its ups and downs right until the very end before I move onto another machine. Because I’ve seen the movie a dozen times, I see the events unfold from song to song, and it's almost as if I’m watching the movie again.
As much as I’ve connected with the soundtrack, it’s the movie that has been so memorable to me these past 35 years.
For more than three decades, he has been the face of Christ for me. Of course I know that Ted Neeley is an actor. But his image in the movie is similar to most images and paintings that we see of Jesus, so when I think of Jesus, I tend to think immediately of the way Ted Neeley portrayed him in the film. To me, that’s not a bad thing at all.
About five years ago, I was in Boston and I ran across an ad that said that Jesus Christ Superstar was touring with
I was pretty excited to be seeing Ted Neeley in Jesus Christ Superstar, and I was fortunate to have a friend with me who might have been even more excited than I was. Looking through the cast list, I was surprised to find Kate Smith in the role of Mary Magdalene. Last year, I saw Kate in Dialogues of the Carmelites and really loved her. I was thrilled that she was cast in this amazing role next to Ted Neeley!
As the lights dimmed and the cast ran up to the stage and danced around, there was a ton of energy in the room! The actors and dancers were young and excited, but they seemed to lack a little refinement. There were some microphone issues where we couldn’t hear all of the singing, and there was a clear imbalance as the band overpowered the singers. Then Jesus appeared and all was forgiven.
The moment Ted Neeley walked on stage, you could feel everyone’s excitement. And when the 68-year old sang his first lines? Amazing! Any concerns I had about his aging voice were immediately dispelled. He commanded the stage with both his presence and voice, and I felt lucky to be able to see him. I eagerly anticipated every time he opened his mouth to sing.
While there were disappointments with some vocals and solo instrumentals from the band, there were moments in the show that couldn’t have been better. Every vocal from Ted was stellar. Every note and every gesture were pretty perfect. As Act 2 began, it was almost as if it were a different show. Last Supper was well acted and well sung, followed by an intense Argument between Jesus and Carleton Bluford’s Judas Iscariot.But the most anticipated song was yet to come.
Gethsemane has been my favorite song from JCS since I can remember. The lyrics are evocative and emotional and to hear Ted Neeley sing this live was a dream come true. No one can feel its power or embody Jesus’ pain, doubt, or resolve more than Ted who has performed this some 3,000 times throughout his career. It was a moment, and if you need but one reason to see Jesus Christ Superstar in Park City, this is it. And it’s the reason that I’ll be going back to see it once more before it ends.
Stand out performances included every scene with Randy Barton as Pontius Pilate, and Jonathan Scott McBride’s shocking performance as Herod in Herod’s Song. Trial & 39 Lashes wasn’t pretty, and it was powerfully acted by Ted Neeley. You could have heard a pin drop during Crucifixion as Jesus, clothed only in a loin cloth and bathed in light on the cross, exhaled his last breath.
There were a few odd moments during the show, including the overzealous fog machine during the scene with lepers, where audience members were fanning away the fog and covering their mouths and eyes, and the Superstar scene was just bizarre with angles hanging on huge hoops that were far too large for the stage. That was a bit of a mess. My hope is that these things, as well as the microphone and balance issues will be resolved quickly and by the time I return for my second performance.
After the show, Ted Neeley appeared in the lobby for a meet and greet to talk with people, sign autographs and pose for pictures. I didn’t plan to have a photo, but I got more and more excited to meet Ted in person, so I was happy to have that moment captured for my memory. Ted talked with each person softly and attentively, and you could tell that he respected and appreciated each person who had come to speak with him.
When I approached Ted, I told him how meaningful Jesus Christ Superstar had been to me over the years and how lucky I felt to be able to see him and meet him. He was so gentle and kind. As I started to walk away, I turned back to him and asked him if I could please ask him one thing that had long bothered me. I said, “I don’t understand why Jesus doesn’t get on the bus at the end”. Of course I could speculate, but I’ve always wondered the real reason. Ted put his hands on my shoulders and quietly said, “I’m so glad you asked me this question.”
Ted said that when he took on the role of Jesus, it was essential to both him and Director Norman Jewison that as soon as he stepped off the bus, he became Jesus, and that because he was assuming this role, becoming this person, he would never be getting back on the bus. And then he asked me if I had noticed the ‘end’ of the movie, and I could tell he was referring to something I missed.
Ted said that one thing that has always been difficult for him is that the movie did not include the resurrection of Christ, and it was something that pained him this same night as the theatre’s stage did not allow for his ascension. And he said, ‘next time you watch the movie, right at the end, as the bus jerks away and Judas looks off into the sunset, the camera pans to the sunset and the crosses. You will notice movement across the bottom of the screen. Look closely, and you will see it is a shepherd walking across the desert. It was not planned and we only knew about it once we saw the reel.” He then said, “I have goose bumps right now, thinking about it, and sharing this with you. It was truly unplanned”.
I had asked one question that had bothered me since the day I first saw the film, and finally, I had the answer, straight from Ted Neeley himself. What a gift! I feel incredibly blessed to have had this opportunity to see Jesus Christ Superstar. I could see any performance of JCS, but to see it with Ted Neeley as Jesus is a unique experience that I likely won’t have again. I will be going back to the Egyptian Theatre to see it once more, and surely Gethsemane will be my favorite moment again. If you have the same passion that I have for the movie and Ted Neeley’s performance, you’ll want to go see it too.
Jesus Christ Superstar runs through December 31st. For tickets, contact the Egyptian Theatre.
Cast photos courtesy Egyptian Theatre.
Utah Theatre Bloggers Review:
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR could shine a little brighter
"It’s a powerful work of theatre, and the Egyptian Theatre Company’s current production, despite its flaws, is worth seeing." - Melissa Leilani Larson, UTBA Reviewer
Playing thru December 31, 2011
PARK CITY — Historically, Jesus Christ is a polarizing figure. Some see him as a deity; others, as an effective teacher; still others, as a fraud. Whether you believe in Jesus’s divinity or not, he makes for a fascinating character study. Jesus Christ Superstar, with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is one such attempt to explore Jesus not only as a character but as a man.
Personally I find Lloyd Webber’s early works to be his strongest: Evita and Superstar are far more interesting to me musically than Cats or The Phantom of the Opera. Superstar’s score is raw, vigorous, and alive. Tim Rice’s straight-forward lyrics dare to ask questions about faith and priorities. Did Jesus do everything he could have for the poor surrounding him? Was it right of him to spend time in the company of sinners and whores? Was he really who he claimed to be? Superstar asks these and other similar questions through the characterization of one of history’s most notorious villains, Judas (played here by Carleton Bluford). One of my favorite aspects of this show is that Judas is given a fair shake: from a dramatic standpoint, we want to see him make the decisions that lead him to betraying his friend and mentor, and not just assume from the beginning that Judas is evil incarnate.
Bluford does a great job bringing complexity and confusion to Judas. His emotional attachment to Jesus is clear, at the same time that I could sense turmoil growing within him. Bluford is likable and charismatic on stage, a definite plus when it comes to playing a fellow with such a bad reputation.
In the role of Jesus is Ted Neeley, who has been connected to Superstar since the early 1970s, when he understudied the title role on Broadway, and then filled it in Norman Jewison’s film version. Neeley’s age adds an interesting fatherly dynamic to his portrayal of Jesus. While I found his acting to be a little wooden, I really enjoyed hearing him sing. He sure can hit those high notes, and this strong ensemble, under the music direction of Jeffrey Price, provides him with ample support.
Kate Smith, in the role of Mary Magdalene, provides another fine performance: “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” is one of my favorite numbers, and Smith’s rendition is lovely and heartbreaking.
A nine-member orchestra provides live accompaniment, directly upstage of the action. While the orchestra sounds fantastic, their presence raises some unfortunate technical difficulties. Superstar is characterized by its creators as a “rock opera,” and most of the communication between characters is either sung or pantomimed. There are a few choice lines that are spoken—the dialogue between Jesus and the Roman prefect Pilate (Randy Barton) comes to mind—that get lost in the flood of music. There are several sung passages key to the plot that are also overwhelmed by the accompaniment; having seen the show before and being familiar with the biblical accounts I didn’t feel lost, but someone without that experience might be.
To hear this cast sing these songs is great fun. The score pulsates, and I found myself watching the heads around me bob in time to the music; I half-expected the audience to get up and dance in the aisles.
But is this is a musical or a concert? The staging of the play (directed by Daniel Simons and choreographed by William Richardson) lacks a bit. This is a show that should pop and crackle, planting the mythical Jesus firmly on the mortal earth. More often than not, I was being told the story of Jesus rather than being shown it: many of the scenes are ironically dry and pageant-like, moving more like medieval paintings than contemporary, living drama.
The show is not without its high points. One of my favorite moments comes late in the first act, when a curious crowd turns into a demanding mob, swirling about Jesus, pulling at him: “Won’t you touch, will you heal me, Christ?” Jesus is almost swept away by force of the mob, and Simons effectively employs a gigantic beggar puppet to tower over Jesus as he sings “There’s too many of you” and “There’s too little of me.” The scene is fresh and theatrical, and I wish there had been more like it throughout the evening.
Another such moment came in the crucifixion scene, fashioned considerably by Joseph Fox’s fine lighting: Neeley’s body, suspended on a cross, looks frail and broken, imaging a carved figure hanging above the altar in a drafty cathedral apse.
We live in a day when the mention of religion can set off tempers, and celebrities are both deified and hounded. Jesus Christ Superstar, with its surging score and clear, emotional libretto is still as sharp and relevant as it was forty years ago. It succeeds dramatically because it’s not about preaching a moral so much as it is about people—about real people making real choices. It’s a powerful work of theatre, and the Egyptian Theatre Company’s current production, despite its flaws, is worth seeing.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR plays through December 31st at the Egyptian Theatre located at 328 Main St., Park City. Tickets are $40-70. For more information, visit EgyptianTheatreCompany.org or call 435-645-0671.
About Melissa Leilani Larson
Melissa Leilani Larson has written 16 article(s) on this blog.
Mel is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Adjunct faculty at BYU and UVU, she teaches courses in dramatic writing, dramaturgy, and stage management. Mel is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America.
Park Record review - 12/22/1:
'Superstar' still going strong
Egyptian Theatre's production continues through Dec. 31
Scott Iwasaki, The Park Record
Posted: 12/22/2011 04:15:21 PM MST
Ted Neeley reprises the role of Jesus in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's classic musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Egyptian Theatre Wednesday.
Neeley, who portrayed Jesus in the 1973 film version, originally auditioned for the role of Judas Iscariot, but didn't get the part and was encouraged by director Norman Jewison to try out for the title role.
When Neeley isn't making appearances in "Jesus Christ Superstar" revivals, he is a drummer in a newly formed rock group, Ted Neeley and His Little Band, something he hasn't been able to do since the late 1960s and early 1970s.
"'Superstar' took me into a whole different direction, and I haven't been able to have that musical band experience in a long long time," Neeley told The Park Record. "However, I've been developing a band project for quite some time and we'll have a world premiere in January at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, Calif. "The whole purpose is to toss up the endeavor and if people like it, I'll tour with the band and play some good old music."
Meanwhile, Neeley stars in the Egyptian Theatre production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" through Dec. 31, with nights off for Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Tickets are $40 to $55 in advance or $45 and $60 at the door. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.parkcityshows.com or calling (435) 649-9371.
(Photo by Grayson West/Park Record) Ted Neeley as Jesus heals the sick during a rehearsal scene from the Egyptian Theatre's production of "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Just for fun: here's the audition notice for this show:
Jesus Christ Superstar
**Roles are open to non-equity actors only.**
Casting for the following:
ALL ROLES PAID
The role of Jesus has already been cast
Auditions will take place in 5 minute slots August 27th from 10am-6:00pm, and August 28th from 10am-1pm; with callbacks for readings and dancing from 2pm-6pm.
Adults of all ages and ethnicities encouraged to audition. *No roles for children.
Strong dancers needed, both men and women. Dancers must sign up to sing and please mention at initial audition if you are a strong dancer.
Prepare 16-32 bars of a Rock or Musical Theatre selection, accompanist provided.
Saturday August 27th 10am-6pm; Sunday August 28th 10am-1pm, callbacks 2pm-6pm at the Egyptian Theatre.
REHEARSAL AND PERORMANCES:
Rehearsals: Rose Wagner Theatre in SLC.
November 1st-December 2nd / Mon-Fri 6pm-10pm, Saturdays 10am-2pm
Egyptian Theatre: December 5th-9th /6-10pm Tech Rehearsal Dec. 10th & 11th/ 10am-10pm
Dress Rehearsal and Previews December 12th-14th 6pm-11pm.
Performances: December 15th -31st nightly with matinees December 17th, 23rd, 30th, and 31st. No performances December 19th, 24th, or 25th.
Show Directed by Daniel Simons
Please call to make your appointment 435-649-9371 or email email@example.com