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Jesus Christ Superstar--beautiful or blasphemous?

Discussion in 'The Broadway Stage' started by romaneagle13, Aug 25, 2005.

  1. romaneagle13

    romaneagle13 Well-Known Member

    Since this is a Christian board, I thought I try and find out what people's thoughts are on Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera treatment of the "greatest story ever told".

    It portrays Jesus as very human and not very divine. He has a powerfully emotional solo called "Gethsemane", in which he questions the idea of dying on the cross. In the end, he agrees to do his Father's will, but ends the song with the challenge, "Take me now before I change my mind!" I agree it's not terribly biblical, but it is powerful and shows Christ in his fear and pain. He asks the same question any of us would ask if we were in that position, "Why, Lord, why?"

    The show also centers not around Jesus, but rather his betrayer. This is the "Gospel according to Judas". The whole thing is taken from Judas' point of view and sees into his feelings, portraying him--like Jesus--as very human.

    Mary Magdalene is also a figure of some controversy. Her big song, "I don't know how to love him", indicates some sort of wish on her part for a relationship with Jesus. It's never really defined though as a hope for a romantic realtionship or a platonic one. I personally never found her offensive.

    I personally love this show, but I have a Pentacostal friend who hates it, calling it blasphemy. What do you all think?
  2. Penguin50388

    Penguin50388 Seeker

    I haven't seen the show yet, but it looks like I might be in it or doing tech for it soon (one of the theatres around here are going to do it). In fact, I don't really know much about the show except what I'm about to say.

    If I remember right the show was released a little after Godspell was. Godspell portrayed Jesus as a great pal and everything but didn't show much of the side of him that was tempted or the side that was wrestling with himself in the garden. From what I remember from my talks with one of my directors, Jesus Christ Superstar was written as a response to Godspell showing the more human side of him.


    Jesus was 100% man and 100% God. I don't know about Godspell, but I would be careful with any show that denies Jesus' Godhood. I believe I sorta saw the movie, but I don't really rememeber it.
  4. linchen

    linchen Legend

    I saw the movie....

    To me is kind of blasphemous! :(
  5. wanderingone

    wanderingone I'm not lost I'm just wandering

    I don't know how it could be blasphemous, while I don't know what Webber and Rice believe personally it never denies Jesus as Christ. I was a little kid when I saw the play in the early 70's (I think I was 5.. so it must have been released in '71?) While my parents definitely allowed plenty of open communication in the way we learned our faith they didn't indulge in anything that indicated that Christ was anything BUT Christ.

    Like you I never saw the I Don't Know How to Love Him song as definitely romantic or platonic... looking at it as an adult when I saw the remake a few years ago I saw it as the confused longing of a woman who never knew any other way to relate to men other than in a sexual way. She wouldn't know how to love him,... she's not sure how he loves her.... how does a man love her and not be looking for sexual satisfaction? Wouldn't that be confusion MANY women would face if they were seen in their community as a prostitute? If the only way anyone had ever cared for them had been as a tool for sexual gratification?

    There are things that make people uncomfortable... and seeing more of human Christ than the Savior Christ is probably one of them.
  6. Fantine

    Fantine Dona Quixote Supporter

    I haven't ever seen "Jesus Christ Superstar" but I've seen "Godspell." I would classify both of these in the genre of docudrama. There is quite a bit of poetic license in the script and lyrics, I'm sure.

    I don't even know if the playwrights and composers of these two works are even Christian.

    Steven Schwartz, a gifted lyricist and composer, is Jewish. His Judaism inspired him to write the music for "The Prince of Egypt" and to use his clout in Hollywood to get it produced. He collaborated with Leonard Bernstein on a Mass.

    Steven Schwartz is one of my favorite composers. His lyrics are thought-provoking, insightful, and witty. His insights into the life of Jesus in "Godspell" probably gave all of us a different perspective of Jesus, but, as a non-Christian, I'm sure his perspective was different from what a Christian's would be.
  7. New_Found_Faith

    New_Found_Faith Senior Veteran Supporter

    I don't remember him questioning it, just asking if there was another way. I believe that this is biblical. In that song the actor portraying Christ says "I will drink your cup of poison" or some similar line which is biblical as well, I think.

    Can't say I remember the line 'why Lord, why?.' I'm not sure it was in there. While I agree that the line "take me now before I change my mind" is not accurate, the entire Gethsemane scene was just to capture the anguish which he must (might) have felt at the time. It's purely a work of art.

    And Judas was only human. What's the problem?

    I love Jesus too. Is this blasphemy?

    Not blasphemy, IMO. I think too many people these days gather their opinions from what their pastors tell them rather than personal experience.
  8. crawforb

    crawforb New Member

    Andrew Lloyd is Anglican, and as far as i am aware, he is a devout Christian. Look at his body of work and you will see biblical themes throughout. Two of his plays are taken right FROM the Bible.

    I agree that JCS does not emphasize the diety of Christ, but it does not deny it.

    And I think we benefit from remembering that Jesus was also a human, with all the same struggles and temptations.
  9. Kilted Stranger

    Kilted Stranger I'm a Nut Cracker

    I think JCS is a wonderful peice of Theatre. But thats all. You cant take whats there as Biblical fact. Though the majority is accurate. :)

    I think its a great Idea dooing it from Judas point of veiw. It shows an entirely different side to the Gospel. How it may have looked to the Pharisees and Sagisees.

    Very Entertaining :D
  10. kidsminister

    kidsminister Active Member

    Actually, ALW is the son of an Anglican minister. He has been quoted in the past as saying he is agnostic. Maybe he has changed his world view, but I do find it fascinating that he is drawn to Christian themes...

    -Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    -Jesus Christ Superstar
    -Whistle Down the Wind

    BTW, I think it's all in how you approach "Superstar." I've seen it done powerfully, and come away with a deeper understanding of Jesus and who He was, and who others thought He was. I've also seen it done very badly, in which I was so offended, I almost got up and walked out. It's all in the hands of the director and actors, IMHO!!
  11. HawaiianTropicalDude

    HawaiianTropicalDude Leaning on Him all the way

    I agree with most of you on different levels.I saw the film not a broadway production but the thread is here so I'm giving my opinion. I liked the music alot and I liked the way ted neely looked.Was it relaistic,of course not.the marketplace had modern items,but the point that was being made to me was clear. My voice instructor and I talked about ALW and this film.it was a film for the times.the 1970's. Not today.It appealed to you 70's teens and young adults. I still liked it and probably will watch it again someday. The end scene was odd but I thought ok,his point is it's all over but where are my friends?
    isn't that what Jesus is thinking right now? I think it is.It's all over but who will remember what I sacrificed and where are you? It made me want to return to church but as of yet-I have not found any church here for me. Ok.thanks for reading :)
  12. cisco

    cisco Member

    At first it may seem to be insulting but when you really pay attention then you would realize how it is beautiful and honorable in a way. Listen to the words of the songs in that movie and tell me what makes it blasphemous?

    No. This was just an example, it was a way to show the viewers the passion Jesus was going through; it was trying to portray that the reason for it all was going beyond anything ever written. I certainly believe that Jesus (God himself) thought and questioned deep down -during that time- on why he and the father was going to allow this to happen. First, he was going to be beaten, insulted and killed by the inferior. So, yes, it was a show of the struggle of keeping the humbleness.

    "Understand what Power is... understand what glory is" - that part alone was an answer to why Jesus didn't pose as the warrior like messiah the jews all hoped for at first.

    Nothing is wrong about that.

    Regardless of her emotions towards Jesus, it still wasn't wrong. We never know, maybe Mary did have some huge affection towards Jesus because she probably never 100% believed that he was the One who existed before everything, to her, he was just a man. A Man that changed her life and accepted her as a human unlike the others she has come acrossed. Showing what mary felt towards him doesn't show any religion bashing or any support on the controversy.

    Looks are deceiving. Tell him to listen to the music and try to understand the message in it.
  13. Ahazmat

    Ahazmat Guest

    I enjoyed the show very much. I wish they would have made Herod stronger. Herod being a prat makes Jesus somewhat less impressive.

    To your pentocostal friend. Many Christian denominations hold the teachings of the pentocostal churches to be blasphemous and heritical.
  14. pineapplelesson

    pineapplelesson Well-Known Member

    It may be because I am a huge theatrical geek... I've been inolved in musical theatre since I was old enough to stand on my own. But I LOVE Jesus Christ, Superstar. I believe it is amazingly well done, written, and is beautiful.

    The way I look at it is that it was able to reveal the struggles of Jesus to those who aren't necessarily Christian in a way that makes them curious about Him, and able to enjoy the story.

    If we begin to say that "Jesus Christ, Superstar" is blasphemy, then I suppose "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is completely out of context with the bible, right? (I've been in several productions of Joseph, and it's my absolute favorite...) Does this make me a bad Christian? No, it just means I am able to enjoy creativity, and I dont overanalyze things.

    If I was really that determined to prove something blasphemous, I'd sit in on several church services around my city, and insist several pastors be fired for their 'blasphemous' sermons.

    I believe people should be able to realize that musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar, and Joseph... aren't taken directly word-for-word out of the Bible.

    If we insist they are blasphemous, our world is going to turn into the town from Footloose, burning books and such! ;)

  15. romaneagle13

    romaneagle13 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for so many of your responses. I agree with many of you. JCS is a great piece to get people talking and thinking about Jesus. I guess what my pentecostal friend has issues with is that she doesn't think that Jesus should be portrayed in a theater show. She thinks it's tawdry and brings him down. She feels he's too holy for that and that doing a musical about him is somehow irreverant. But she didn't think that the movie "Passion of the Christ" was irreverant. Maybe it was because it wasn't set to music. I don't know. She really didn't like Herod's song, mocking Christ. She took offense at that.

    I thought the show was wonderful and I love Lloyd Webber's other works. In fact I am taking my niece and husband to see "Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat" in two days.
  16. katylees

    katylees Kaaaaty

    In Relationship
    I think its awesome ..hmmm
  17. superdave

    superdave are you super-natural?

    I am not sure if I posted in this thread or not. But, I am going to do it again, If I did... hahaha...

    "Jesus Christ Superstar" holds a very special place in my heart as a preformer. I enjoy the score tremendously. I think it has high energy and definitely is one, if not the best score that ALW ever composed. There is a youthful exuberance in it--that somehow left Andrew Lloyd Webber's music after him and Rice stopped collabrating. As for the several casts, I have had the joy to listen to. (I have never seen the show live, but have the both movie productions of the show.) It seems to redefine itself with every cast. But Neely and Anderson really took the show to a whole other level in the 1973 Film Production.

    I see the show as entertainment, not as a religious peice. I do not think its blasphemous, should it be part of the church canon of religious plays?- no, definitely not.

    I love Superstar--and my ultimate dream role is to play Judas Iscariot--it's a role I have been practicing for--well, since I have had an interest in theatre.
  18. DharmaBum

    DharmaBum Guest

    Jesus Christ Superstar--beautiful or blasphemous?

  19. Sammydiggins

    Sammydiggins New Member

    Jesus Christ Superstar is probably my favorite movie. I think it's beautiful. It's a very moving movie to me. To actually search into the human side of Yeshua is really great. My favorite song in the movie (I haven't watched it live) is Gethesemane, it's really emotional and moving. As for it being centered around Judas, I see no problem with that. We kind of get a glimpse as to why Judas may have betrayed Yeshua. Judas feared Yeshua would lead to a revolt and the destruction of the Jewish people. When he betrayed Yeshua he also had no idea that they intended to kill him. I don't know if this is true but it points this out to be a possible theory. As for King Herod's mockery of Yeshua in the movie being blasphemous...people mocked him in the Bible as well, but no one would dare say reading those verses would be blasphemous...stating that something happened is in no way blasphemy.
  20. guyfawkes

    guyfawkes Member

    I am not one to judge its....Christianity-related moralities, however, as a Theatre Arts student, I tend to not care for it.