Friday, May 29, 2009

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Casting Coup: Jesus Christ Superstar

Sorry for the delay. It's been a busy couple of weeks.

Picture it: Easter Sunday, 2009. Friends are gathered at mi casa to celebrate, but not too many. In fact, it's just two, plus me and my roommate. That's the whole group. Anyway, friends are gathered to celebrate, but no one really has a huge relationship with Jesus, what with none of us going to church and most of us either agnostic or not following in an already-identified-for-us faith. So what could we do?

Interestingly enough, we turned to what I consider to be the greatest telling of the life of Jesus: the 1972 classic Jesus Christ Superstar.

It is, perhaps, the greatest musical ever made. It is the only film, I think, to really understand both the human and the divine of Jesus. The importance of Palm Sunday has never been so much clearer than in the "Hosanna" number. Yvonne Elliman's Mary Magdalene is the most layered portrayal of the famous lady. And, of course, location, location, location: all filming was actually done in the desert, in Israel ("Herod's Song" is even performed at the Dead Sea).

While watching the movie, I was soon reminded of two things: one, the TV version PBS did, which re-imagined the setting as a sort of police state in the near future. Or something. Two, a third version is apparently in the works, according to a 2008 interview with Marc Platt, producer of Legally Blonde and Wanted.

The challenge, of course, is getting everyone to see it. There are people who remain "shy" towards musicals (I don't believe anyone hates musicals, since that would render mix tapes and playlists nonexistent). And how does one get the masses to see an all-singing, all-dancing, all-Jesus spectacular?

May I make some suggestions, casting-wise?

Who is He: The second famousest of the apostles, Peter was always ready to kick ass for the Lord. But he was also human, meaning he had doubts, and when the chips were down, Peter choked. And by choked, I mean denied. That is, knowing Jesus.

My Choice:

Kevin Richardson of The Backstreet Boys
Kevin, the best Backstreet Boy, has proven his talents onstage in both West End and Broadway productions of Chicago, where he played Billy Flynn. He's a face people can recognize, and he wants to prove himself as an actor. And could there be a more challenging role than Peter? I mean, other than Jesus and Judas and Mary and Pilate?

Who is He: Awesome. A follower of Christ who wants a revolution.

My Choice:

Justin Timberlake (Black Snake Moan, Southland Tales)
Timberlake is a guaranteed draw. He's a marvelous crowdpleaser, a pretty fine actor, and -- most importantly -- he's just an amazing talent. He sings, he dances, he emotes while doing both. What more could I ask for?

Who is He: A high priest, possible acting president of the Sanhedrin (the judges appointed over every city in Israel), who conspires with Caiaphas to end Jesus' influence.

My Choice:

Roger Bart (The Stepford Wives, Hercules)
And this is how we draw in the Broadway crowd. There is a little cult of people that are willing to see anything Roger Bart is in, especially if partnered with the man I have as Caiaphas.

Who is He: The High Priest who does not care for this Jesus chap.

My Choice:

Michael Cerveris (Rock 'n' Roll High School Forever, the upcoming Cirque du Freak)
God, does anyone else here think he could act/sing the HELL out of this role? Cerveris is another Broadway talent, so the pairing with Bart would be cool. Broadway babes as high priests? Luv it!

Who is He: The Roman governor who tried Jesus and eventually ordered his crucifixion, albeit reluctantly.

My Choice: Academy Award Nominee for Best Original Song (The Emperor's New Groove, Kate & Leopold, Cold Mountain)

Sting (The Bride, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen)
By now you should realize that my idea here is to get known, established music stars and put them in a rock opera. Obviously, their own involvement with the rock genre (I know, boy bands are pop, but shut up). Sting here is one of the undisputed rock gods, like Bruce Springsteen or Alice Cooper or Louis Armstrong. He is also an experienced actor, having worked with Guy Richie, David Lynch, and Captain Planet.

Who is He: The scene-stealer. Herod is the King of the Jews, known primarily for hard-partying. His number is The Big One, the Showstopper (besides "Superstar" of course), and so they always get someone big to play it. Victor Spinetti did it in the 20th Anniversary edition, while Broadway gave us Alice Cooper's take. So who could possibly measure up?

My Choice:

Ozzy Osbourne (Austin Powers in Goldmember, Trick or Treat)
So maybe the number is a little "lively" for what we're used to, but the lyrics themselves would be delivered fantastically by Ozzy. Picture it. You know I'm right.

Who is She: The former prostitute who follows Jesus, she doesn't know how to love him. As a man? As a Messiah? Let her sing about it.

My Choice:

Christina Aguilera
Now, true, she hasn't done a movie. But something about her...I don't know. I feel that she has a face and a presence made for the screen. Add to that the impact her "dirrty" incarnation had on her image, and here we have someone more or less built to play Mary Magdalene. In this movie, at least. Besides, this is an all-singing film, and godDAMN this woman has a marvelous voice.

Who is He: The betrayer. Judas sells Jesus to the Sanhedrin and Roman centurions for 30 pieces of silver. Later hangs himself. Spoiler alert! Interestingly, he is the protagonist of the tale, as the musical takes his uncertain point of view towards Christ.

My Choice:

Andre Benjamin (Four Brothers, Semi-Pro)
Good actor. I don't know what it is about rappers and acting, but the two tend to mix well, like ice cream and chocolate syrup. Good singer, too, who could probably sing the role of Judas just as well as he could play it. I mean, have you seen Idlewild? Great musical.

Who is He: Well, that's just it. Is he the Messiah? Is he a prophet? Is he just a man? The debate continues today, but apparently the only thing we know for sure is that he had a damn good set of pipes on him.

My Choice:

Adam Pascal (The School of Rock, Rent)
He was one of the better actors in Rent. He looks good with long hair. He can sing the role. He's a big draw for Broadway devotees. And he's not so mainstream as to be distracting.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

i still can't really say anything intelligent. that's the only thing that comes to mind when i tell myself to comment on this.