Friday, March 21, 2008

Keep Them Yelling Their Devotion

It is impossible to overstate my love for "Jesus Christ, Superstar." I love it like I love Kraft mac'n'cheese with tuna in a pot or shorts stories by Rosamunde Pilcher: They are all intensely satisfying on the surface, but after some introspection I do know that they are crafted to be intensely satisfying on the surface without holding much on the inside. There isn't a lot of fiber in any of them.

Having said that, I really, really love JCS. I've seen it several times on the stage (and it's the only thing "Broadway musical" I've seen more than once), most recently with Sebastian Bach as Jesus; I own the original Broadway cast version (Ian Gillan as Jesus! woo!); and I usually have some part of the soundtrack going through my head during this part of the year, even if it is the third-grade version that we used to sing when I lived in Lincoln, Nebraska:

Jesus Christ, Superstar,
Running down the streets of Omaha.
Here come the cops; I don't care,
I've got bulletproof underwear.

When my sister was the drum major for the high school band (and I'd post a picture of her in a marching-band uniform, but the sad thing is, I'm in the same picture, and I'm wearing unfortunate glasses in addition to a marching-band uniform), the band did "Jesus Christ, Superstar." How awesome was that? It was so awesome, we spent a lot of time listening to it, and recasting it with contemporary singers, an exercise we continued on and off for some time. Natalie Merchant as Mary Magdalene, Bono (in his in carnation as the Fly) as Simon the Zealot, Michael Stipe as an odd, offbeat Jesus or ironic soft-shoe Herod, Chris Cornell as Judas, and so on. Kurt Cobain is a little too obvious as tortured screamy Jesus, but how can one resist? Alice in Chains as the Pharisees.

We had precedent; we had done this before. When I was about nine and she was about six, we gathered up our stuffed animals to stage JCS. Holly Hobby was Mary Magdalene. A giant rabbit named Floppy, whom I won in an egg-decorating contest, was Caiaphas. And by virtue of the velcro on his hands and feet, which made him perfect for sticking to the back of a 1970s-upholstered chair, Kermit the Frog was Jesus.

Beyond the velcro, Kermit makes a great Jesus. Both are mild, wise, attractive and long-suffering. Kermit was bendable and could sermonize well. All the other stuffed animals liked to listen to him. And when the music got worked up, you could shake him so his arms flew around.

So we put the two records (being sure to put them in the correct order) on the record player and began. We acted out the whole thing with stuffed animals, and I probably insisted that Kermit ride in on one of my Breyer horses in the Palm Sunday scene. I wish I could remember who played Judas.

Things started to go downhill at the 39 lashes. Kermit the Frog doesn't deserve to be whipped. But it got even worse when we had to crucify Kermit. We put him up on the chair, arms outstretched, legs crossed, mouth gaping open in that happy Kermit grin, and we looked at each other and burst into tears. And that's what greeted my mom when she walked into the living room: two weeping children, surrounded by stuffed animals, listening to Jesus Christ, Superstar.


  1. If things ever go south for you and Matt, will you marry me?
    (Kidding. I kid. But you know what I mean.)

    Have you seen the sort of crappy 80s version with the guy who looks like Kenny G? Judas kicks ASS in that one, though.

  2. Hee. I do know what you mean.

    I haven't seen the 80s version, but I remember a British BBC version that played on PBS and was trying to be all gansta. It was odd.

    And really, when DOESN'T Judas kick ass?

  3. Of course, Judas isn't the only one kicking ass in that clip.

  4. This is not the first time you've posted about the weeping Kermit scene, and this is not the last time I will shed tears of laughter at your verbal recreation of the event.

  5. Okay, so I was a little off on the timeline...80s, 2000, whatever, eh?