Written By Annie Zeleznikow
I had bought special students tickets to a show on at the public theatre. I didn’t know what they were for, it seemed interesting enough and I sure it would be a fun afternoon. But as soon as I got an email in my inbox about Jesus Christ Superstar Live I sent my friend a Facebook message:
And of course, we decided to go to JCSS.
The first time I saw JCSS my older sister was dressed as a risqué maid, and there were chain-linked fences on stage. Surprising as it seems, the grunge of this university production wasn’t far off from the progressive and powerfully produced show that NBC aired on Easter Sunday.
I was assigned priority standing room. This meant that I was going to be on my feet from 4.30pm until about 10.30pm when the show ended. My friend was celebrating her birthday, so there was no way I was taking anyone else. We had a lot of time to chat and talk about our expectations and how we had been since we last saw each other. We also had lots of time to hype up the show we were about to witness.
It was a long journey from our home on the Upper West Side to the heart of Brooklyn. From a fabulous location in Brooklyn, the audience was transported via bus to Williamsburg. There I was meet with a strange sense of irony, as we elevated Christ in the heart of a large Jewish community. I was somewhat embarrassed to be celebrating Christ on the second day of Passover (which I had celebrated the night before), but my love of Theatre overwhelmingly won out.
The show began with the gorgeous and youthful Brandon Niederauer rocking out on his electric guitar among the scaffolding and fellow musicians. With one minute to go, I waved frantically at Neiderauer, sending forth my best wishes to him and the cast. Ensemble members crouched down in front of us, and we all started chanting in an attempt to prove that we were going to be an amazing audience.
The show begins with the ensemble, draped in black and grey clothing, crowding around our Jesus, John Legend. Legend emerges on the stage bathed in light, his gentle features Christ-like in the flood of brightness against the post-apocalyptic backdrop of our Jerusalem. Just as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice would have wanted, the crowd, including me, screamed at the opportunity to reach out and touch Legends’ hand. This sort of response was evoked whenever Legend sang and derived from a primitive need to glorify the star. Legend produced the reaction from the crowd that one would expect for Christ. Legend has received mixed reviews, but in person, all I saw was a Christ-like vocal God. I was only privy to Legends’ smooth and delicious voice, which although sometimes faltered but never failed to impress the hoard of adoring fans that I had become a part of.
Despite Legend’s larger than life character, Brandon Victor Dixon stole the show and the hearts of the audience as Judas. The Broadway veteran rocked the same trendy dark and slightly sinister-like clothes as the ensemble as he belted out some soulfully moving and powerful numbers. He comfortably reached vocal heights that Legend struggled to project. Dixon let his inner rock star shine, he was clearly moved by the audience that was cheering along any vocal riffs and challenging vocal pieces. Dixon carried the brunt of the story and played a huge narrative role in this revival of Christ’s story.
Watching the show from the crowd distorted the story significantly, there wasn’t a storyline, rather a collection of intensely emotional songs. Instead of living through the last days of Christ, I found myself jumping up and down at a rock concert that ended with the Star floating away. The tall heads in front of me and the overbearing cheers and screams from my peers meant that the brilliant vocals were often drowned out. Although our adoration moved the cast to perform with greater gusto, the best place for an audience member to be was at home on the couch. Luckily NBC has made Jesus Christ Super Star Live readily available to those who live in the US.
As the announcement comes that there will be a national tour of JCSS, it dawns on me that although this was a delightful piece of artistic creation, the money aspect of this live production, and the widespread viewing of the Easter show, was a very purposeful decision. It will soon be possible for those of you living in the US to soon see Jesus and Judas fighting it out live. Until then please enjoy this fabulous gift NBC has given us.
Watch Jesus Christ Superstar Live Now- https://www.nbc.com/jesus-christ-superstar/video/jesus-christ-superstar-live-in-concert/3689643
Buy Tickets for Jesus Christ Superstar Soon- https://www.ticketmaster.com/Jesus-Christ-Superstar-tickets/artist/843994?list_view=1