2012 - Country - 104 minutes
Director - Laurence Connor
Writer - Tim Rice / Andrew Lloyd Webber
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 5.2/10
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
I saw Jesus Christ Superstar when it first came to Broadway in the early 1970’s and was bowled over by both the production and the music. I greatly anticipated the movie (1973) but was somewhat disappointed. At that time, I did not like the addition of the modern elements to the film, but I have mellowed my aversion with age and wisdom.
The music is the thing in Superstar, one really doesn’t need visuals, but they do add to the pleasure of the rock opera. On Broadway, the visuals relied upon costumes and innovative stage operations which featured a three-piece stage that rose and fell to accentuate the action. In the film, the authentic locations played the key role in the setting along with some inventive physical constructions. In Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour the whole of the action takes place on a huge staircase with an enormous video screen in the background. As described by the set designer in the DVD extras, he chose this setting because it represents what the powerful in society have always done to express their power - build huge staircases in order to elevate themselves from the normal man.
My opinions of the setting and costumes, for me, express my maturity of thought from the time I was a man in his mid-twenties to today, a man in his late sixties for the whole production is staged in modern times against the background of political and financial unrest in Great Britain. This period is perfectly expressed in the lyrics and emotions of the score even though it is separated by more than two-thousand years from the actual events. Man is still not learning a thing from history.
Of course, for Superstar, the performance is the thing, and this arena version has extraordinary interpretations of Jesus and Judas by Ben Forster and Tim Minchin - especially Minchin. The power of their performances put this video over the top for me. The only performance I found to be lacking as opposed to the play and the movie was that of Alexander Hanson as Pontius Pilate. Hanson is an accomplished actor and certainly played the part very well, but his “singing” was more of spoken word accompanied by music. I remember reading somewhere that the original Broadway Pilate - played by Barry Dennen was given the additional song, “Pilate’s Dream” that was supposed to be sung by Pilate’s wife because of his impressive voice. Dennen makes the song a highlight of the play. He also reprised the part in the film. Hanson is good, but his scenes are not highlights as were Dennen’s.
The arena version of Superstar is a feast of music and visuals. The cameramen and editors did an excellent job of showing the elements of the production on the television screen. It is a must see if you enjoyed the music, the play, or the movie - or as I, all of the above.
October 9, 2013