All to well
I can see
where we all
soon will be…
Those are the first words of the Rock Opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I first saw this when i was in high school and I knew once I could sing the way Judas could, I was done. I was a good enough singer. Here’s the problem. Bflat above the scale. Its a note Carl Anderson (RIP) goes to in the movie. Its the highest note Judas sings. I can get to A full voice, but i’m straining to do so. Its easy on a good well warmed up day after i haven’t had any soda for a month and i’ve just been kicked in the balls.
Little theatre nerd trivia for you. In the movie of JCS, the very thin Ted Neely played Jesus and the inimitable Carl Anderson played Judas. That lineup, however, was not the original Broadway cast. In fact, you can’t easily get the Broadway cast album. You can get the concept album/London cast, you can get the movie soundtrack, a 20 anniversary album, and the last major revival. Last time I checked, you could get the Broadway cast imported from Japan for $60 dollars (I just looked at Amazon and a highlights version is $14.98)!! $60!! Isn’t there a way for it to be cheaper? I mean how about a highlights version that i could get on the internet? But no, my friends, that’ll probably never happen (No it does, I just said up there….ahh!…getting choked…can’t breathe…i didn’t play by their rules…i didn’t play by their rrrrr…).
Anyway, the original Jesus was Jeff Fenholt (who had some sort of sordid past with the band Black Sabbath and is now a Christian rocker) and the orginal Judas was Ben Vereen. Yes, Ben Vereen. The man. Let us make no mistake. Ben Vereen is the fucking man. He is the real deal. There is a recording of the show Pippin in which he plays the Leading Player where he dances and sings with an enormity that you can only call Ben Vereen. Legend has it that before that production he was in a car accident and was told he would never walk again. He is dancing Fosse in the show. Fosse! The most theatrically specific style of dance in the American Musical!! Never walk again my ass!
Anyway, now that I’m done with that very gay interlude. I will say that late great Carl Anderson did the role like no one else could. His voice is increible and powerful and its effortless to him. I wish I could sing like that. The only other thing I have his singing voice on is “Play On!” the soundtrack of a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night set to the music and time of Duke Ellington. Anderson plays the Duke and good God the man’s voice is ridiculous.
I wonder though. Oh how I wonder why its ok for a black man to play Judas. Hmm. In fact a black Judas has become the standard for productions of JCS. Hmm. If they cast a black man as Jesus, I guarantee you people would raise hell, no pun intended. In high school, we almost did this show and people thought I’d be Judas since I was an ok singer, ok actor, and I had a rep for betraying people to the principal for 30 pieces of silver. However, there was no one in my school that could play/sing Jesus: performing arts school or not. That is a high tenor to sing. Rumor was we were gonna cast a girl. The moment the rumor got out, the show was changed. Hmm. Interesting.