Stars: Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen, Bob Bingham
Genre: Drama, History, Musical
Runtime: 112 minutes
Before Andrew Lloyd Webber took over Broadway with his operatic productions and Tim Rice tossed in his lot with Disney's animated musicals, they were the young turks of musical theater and their rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar was their calling card. Director Gale Edwards's 1999 stage revival, which became the basis for this video production (also available on CD), takes the show out of ancient Jerusalem to an indeterminate mix of modern New York (complete with graffiti-scrawled walls and T-shirt garbed disciples) and timeless Rome. The grandly abstract sets, rainbow lighting, and striking costumes are more theater than cinema, but like the previous made-for-video Lloyd Webber-Rice production Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the enormous soundstages give the director free reign to combine the mediums. The setting folds fascism, intolerance, and revolution into a portrait out of time, robbing the play of its powerful historical grounding but injecting it with energy and insight. As Christ, Glenn Carter (who played the role in the 2000 Broadway revival) flashes his anger and rolls his eyes at Judas (Jerome Pradon) but cannot deny the truths of Judas's fears: "Every word you say today gets twisted 'round some other way." As Christ sees his cult of personality overtake his message and struggles with the fears of his sacrifice, he reaches within for faith and forgiveness, giving the show the spiritual dimension it so often lacks. It's an entertaining, thoughtful, and well-sung production. Edwards avoids the tepidity of Norman Jewison's solemn 1973 film, driving forward with energetic editing and swooping cameras, and guided at all times by the dramatic, exhilarating score. --Sean Axmaker
Every time I look at you I don't understand why you let the things you did get so out of hand? You'd've managed better if you'd had a plan. Why'd you choose such a backwards time in such a strange land? If you'd come today you would've reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication.
I dreamed I met a Galilean, a most amazing man. He had that look you very rarely find, the haunting, hunted kind. I asked him to say just how it started, and how it all began, I asked him twice, he never said a word, as if he hadn't heard. And next, I dreamed the room was full of wild and angry men, they seemed to hate this man. They fell on him and then dissapeared again. And then I heard thousands of millions crying for this man, and then I heard them mentioning my name, and leaving me the blame.
Talk to me, Jesus Christ! You have been brought here, manacled, beaten by your own people! Do you have the first idea why you deserve it? Listen, King of the Jews, where is your kingdom? Look at me! Am I a Jew?
I have no kingdom. In this world, I'm through.
There may be a kingdom for me somewhere, if you only knew.
You beat him so hard that he was bent and lame; and I know who everybody's gonna blame! I don't believe he knows I acted for our good! I'd save him all this suffering if I could! Don't believe... our good... and I'd save him if I could!
Cut the confessions! Cut out the dramatics! I don't understand why you're filled with remorse! All that you've said has come true with avengeance! The mob turned against him, you backed the right horse!
What you have done will mean the saving of Israel, you'll be remembered forever for this! Not only that, you've been paid for your efforts. Pretty good wages for one little kiss!
Where are you from, Jesus? What do you want, Jesus? Tell me! You've got to be careful! You could be dead soon! Could well be! Why do you not speak when I hold your life in my hands? How can you stay quiet? I don't believe you understand!
You have nothing in your hands. Any power you have comes to you from far beyond. Everything is fixed, and you can't change it.
What do you mean? You'd crucify your king?
He's done no wrong! No, not the slightest thing!
Well, this is new! Respect for Caeser! 'Till now, this has been noticeably lacking! Who is this Jesus? Why is he different? You Jews produce Messiahs by the sackfull!
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