Jesus Christ Superstar is the music of the springtime of my childhood. I remember the album; its brown cover, containing two records that were tucked away in my Dad’s record collection. It came out on Palm Sunday and played all week long. The voices of that original cast are as familiar to me as the voices of some of my family members. For me, the musical encompasses the Easter season that both of my parents emphasized all throughout my formative years. My mother would tell us the story of Palm Sunday—reading aloud the Gospel before we went to church to hear it. And when we returned, my father would bring that story to life in our living room; sharing Webber and Rice’s lyrics and music with my brothers and I, the more modern words accompanied by the rock riffs spinning around us all during Holy Week. It was through this mix of Bible stories and rock music that we knew what Jesus and his apostles felt, we knew the sting of Judas’ betrayal and why he ended his life, we knew the mockery of Herod and the impassiveness of Pilate…the story of Easter was never more alive than when my mother read it aloud and my father sang it—solo until he taught me, his partner in all things musical, to sing some of the parts.
It is, without a doubt, my favorite musical; I’ve seen it onstage 5 times, I’ve taught it to my Drama classes, I’ve assigned song work from it, and now, it plays in my house so that my own family can learn the story. When NBC released Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE on Easter Sunday several years ago, I was amazed. The modern staging, the cheering audience, and the incredible cast—well it was just the best production I’d ever seen of it and as I said, I’ve seen many. For me, and it is my hope for the students of Saint Dominic Academy, it truly captured the passion of Jesus’ journey from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday.
When I talked with Avery Williams, the President of our African American Appreciation Club, we both agreed that this production would be meaningful and powerful; a “heavy hitter” to showcase all that our club and our school seeks to teach our students. With its multi racial cast, it sends the message that Jesus truly loves everyone. With its mix of male and female disciples, it showcases the belief every Catholic holds dear to heart; that Jesus embraces all who choose to follow Him. Brandon Victor Dixon’s Judas is brooding and conflicted; caught up in emotion and gossip and fear, like so many of us are today. Alice Cooper’s Herod is mocking and mean—placing keen emphasis on just how cruel people can be to others.
And John Legend’s humanistic portrayal of Jesus, more than any other portrayal I’ve seen, slams home the message that Jesus was a man and he was afraid to die. He was suffering and in pain and doing the very best he could to make the world a better place and still, he felt isolated and alone, with nowhere to turn for comfort. I cannot watch his performance without crying.
I hope that as our student body views the musical together on Friday, March 26th, the emotions they feel while watching mirror the ones we should all feel when we hear the Gospel readings during Holy Week. It is my hope that seeing this moving and human portrayal of the last days of our Savior truly brings home to everyone’s hearts the sacrifice Jesus made for us all and why Easter, above all else, should be a day where we all give Glory to God.