THEATER "Ted heads" went away dejected on the Tuesday opening night of Jesus Christ Superstar at Kingsbury Hall. Right after the emcee announced how great it was to interview Ted Neeley and what a genuinely nice person he was and how we would be so lucky to see him perform in his farewell tour, it was then announced that the part of Jesus of Nazareth would be played by the understudy. Incredulous groans from the audience echoed in the hall.
In his place, however, Chris Gleim did a more than credible job filling in. He definitely looked more the part of a 30-something Jesus. Once he warmed up his pipes, he could shriek Jesus' outrage at the moneylenders as well as Neeley ever did in his prime and in fact, Gleim won the house over after his powerful rendition of "Gethsemane."
Not to be outdone, Living Colour lead singer Corey Glover played a mean Judas Iscariot, with all the requisite passion, skepticism and rock & roll apostle-hood necessary to pull a little understanding and sympathy his way.
I also liked Craig Sculli's whispering-snake performance of Pontius Pilate and the campy shtick of King Herod played by Aaron Fuksa.
Mary Magdalene, played by Tiffini Dodson, sang our favorites with aplomb("Everything's Alright" and "I Don't Know How to Love Him") but as an actor, she seemed a bit wooden. Maybe it's just the way the part is written.
The stage was rather bare bones for a Broadway production but hang on for the dramatic ending that involves someone dying on a cross (I'm not giving anything away here, am I, religious scholars?) which ups the production-values ante a bit. Plus you'll be razzle-dazzled by Corey Glover's Judas if you wait it out.
Superstar brings up that age-old question of why anyone would sanely choose to be a spiritual iconoclast. From Moses to Jesus to Martin Luther to Mahatma Gandhi to even our local favorite Joseph Smith, at the end of the day, when all the preaching is ended, it seems like people mostly just want to see your head on a stick. Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama got kicked out of his own home and shown the door from his own country. It's an occupation with a high mortality rate ... and not a lot of love.
After seeing the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar several times and savoring the soundtrack (with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber) back in my '70s high school days, this was my first live production. Totally worth it if you love the music and can handle the fact that Neeley might be a no-show. (Jerre Wroble)