To today's sweet young things, Jesus Christ Superstar conjures up unbearably hippie-ish images of hirsute Israelites in hand-knotted beige duds, swinging shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen hair while shrilling about Jesus in perfect I'd-like-to-buy-the-world-a-Coke harmony.
Mary Magdalene's spa treatment.
Opens at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 24
(and runs through Oct. 19)
It's true that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1971 musical was a product of its time. The pair's portrayal of Jesus as a rebellious, lusty, long-haired peacenik who reveled in his stardom, questioned God's edicts, and preached through magnificent rock 'n' roll tunes was in perfect sync with the '70s cultural zeitgeist. This Jesus was no picture-postcard Lamb of God; this guy was someone the post-flower-child generation could relate to. Accordingly, Superstar ran for eight years on London's West End and spawned a 1973 film and two best-selling albums.
Of course, the hipper something is in one era, the sillier it looks in the next. Doubt me? Two words: parachute pants. After the earth-tone age, Superstar hit the scrapheap along with Earth shoes, est, and macramé owls. But by the '90s, with hit musicals like Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast revitalizing the species, producers took another look at Superstar and pronounced it ripe for resuscitation. This was no dated throwback, however; Superstar's characters sang about issues even cynics could groove on. Love. Betrayal. Murder. Torture. Damnation. Resurrection. Just wee tweaks to the musical arrangements and an update of the costumes were needed before the show was ready to reopen on the West End in 1996.
Since then Superstar has enjoyed successful runs in New York, Germany, and the U.K., with touring productions bringing it to major U.S. cities throughout 2002 and 2003. Now it's our turn. And those who pass over Superstar's S.F. jaunt, believing it's just a baby boomer artifact, are missing out. Because, in the words of Superstar's Caiaphas, "One thing I'll say for him -- Jesus is cool." Even now.