In this adaptation, Simon, who should be portrayed as a full-fledged bordering on insane religious zealot, appeared about as capable of leading open revolt against the Roman overlords as would the West Side Story Sharks and Jets dare start a gang turf war in present day Harlem. *rolls eyes* Mary Magdalene’s torturous and tempestuous relationship with Jesus (and Judas, for that matter) was tamed down to a High School Musical PG-13 version. The Apostles were clueless (as all good apostles should be) and VERY VERY PRETTY (read: distractingly good looking and well built). But they were devoid of all faith and intention – it seemed as though they followed Jesus not for his philosophy or his substance but for the copious amounts of free wine and the communal partying that he could offer them. Yes, these Apostles were merely 1st century frat boys. You can see this particularly in Peter – when informed that he would deny Jesus, the expected response of refusal, anger, even violence is noticeably lacking. This Peter’s actual reaction was more like… ‘duh…did someone just call my name?? o_O’
This indifference is tolerable at best in the aforementioned characters but when an apathetic Judas comes into play, it renders the entire play virtually impotent. The Judas character is, for all intents and purposes, a mirror for the Jesus character: two men who are suffering a crisis of conscience, questioning their beliefs and their destiny – witness specifically ‘
I suppose I should not end this review on a bad note - again Ted Neeley was great, aside from the moments when he slipped into being TOO Jesus-like. Pilate was also quite good. The staging of the play itself was more traditional which is always a good thing as some modern adaptations can be a little scary. There were some very funny moments like when they performed 'The Temple' and displayed as a tapestry an image of a giant Roman coin...Me: 'WTF?? That's not Tiberius...I don't even think that emperor was born yet". *LOL* And then later on during the resurrection scene, again a tapestry is shown, this time displaying the image on the Shroud of Turin..."Me: OMG...Jacques de Molay"...*Templar fangirl squee* (OK I realize no one has a clue what I am talking about unless you know me, but really it is funny...trust me)
So, like all productions of JCS, it was not perfect. I doubt I will ever consider one to be perfect since I have such a precise vision of how this play should be performed. Although the 2004 North American tour was near flawless, I believe that, given the funds and the appropriate actors, Jeremy Hutton would be the one director to get it right because, even in his meager young theatre version you could see how he understood the play as it should be – the themes, the relationships, story, the history…
Until then…well, you can bet I’ll be there, waiting and watching whenever I’m so fortunate to have the pleasure to see and hear it again. I love this musical – in all its various incarnations - and I can’t begin to thank Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice for the infinite joy it gives me!!