This past week I had the pleasure of seeing the latest revival of Jesus Christ Superstar! This classic Andrew Lloyd Webber composition, with lyrics by Tim Rice, was first introduced as a musical recording before it hit the “Great White Way” in 1971.
After multiple interpretations around the world, the show is back on Broadway for the third time. Essentially a rock flavored version of the traditional passion play that’s been depicted across America for years, it opened on March 22nd, a month after Ash Wednesday at the Neil Simon Theatre. Ben Vereen brought the FUNK as Judas Iscariot in the production back in the day. Throughout the course of the evening, long-time theatre-goers reminisced about his performance. He graced the stage from 71′ to 73′, and was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in 1972. He was honored with the Theatre World Award that same year. In 1973, Vereen took home a Tony Award for “Best Actor in a Musical” for his role in Pippin. The current version features Josh Young as Judas, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene and Paul Nolan as Jesus. Tom Hewitt and Bruce Dow deliver memorable performances as Pontius Pilate and King Herod respectively. The folks at Boneau/ Bryan-Brown are at the helm for press on Jesus Christ Superstar, and on April 26th, they’ll be the driving force behind another spiritually based play titled Leap of Faith. Based on the movie of the same name released in 1992 that starred Steve Martin and Debra Winger, Leap of Faith is about a con man that travels from city to city as an evangelist. Starring four-time Tony Award nominee Raúl Esparza, Jessica Phillips, Kendra Kassebaum, Kecia Lewis-Evans, Leslie Odom, Jr., Krystal Joy Brown and Talon Ackerman, previews begin on Tuesday, April 3rd at the St. James Theatre.
In addition to Jesus Christ Superstar and Leap of Faith, the shows Godspell, Sister Act and Book of Mormon are also on Broadway. Godspell is another revival of a 70’s musical and Sister Act is another play based on a movie, while Book of Mormon is an original production from the creators of South Park. Godspell features several thespians making their Broadway debut, like the original Off-Broadway version that kicked off in 1971 and Book of Mormon showcases several seasoned theatre actors. Sister Act, which is produced by Tony/ Oscar/ Emmy/ Grammy Award Winning actress-comedian Whoopi Goldberg, just picked up Raven-Symone as its new star.
Five new plays on Broadway that are all based on religion… Hmmm… Can you say a reflection of what’s needed in our society amidst these tumultuous times. I don’t believe in coincidence, but I do believe in the power of prayer. Whether ye be Christian, Mormon (well maybe not Mormon), Jewish, Buddhist, Catholic or Muslim, with so many crazy things happening, many folks can come together and be united through faith. No matter how big our national deficit, or how poor the economy may be, there’s some how always enough dollars in the good ol’ US of A for us to be entertained. I for one am happy about that, as for the past 25-plus years, I’ve made a living through various forms of entertainment. In the words of the great Ethel Merman, “There’s no business like show business, like no business I know.”
Keep The Faith