Last year, Alan Turing's phenomenal story and the greater implications of his life were presented in The Imitation Game. The outstanding transformation of Eddie Redmayne to Stephen Hawking was Oscar Winning. Other favourite biopics are Erin Brockovich, The King's Speech (tears), Milk (tears), and Capote - all, also, Oscar Winning Performances.
Jesus Christ Superstar isn't often counted as a biopic. It is, nonetheless, a biographical story. Andrew Lloyd Webber first put the life of Jesus on stage in 1970, and has been changing lives ever since! Just kidding. Most people don't take this work terribly seriously, which is probably fair. Have you heard the theme? It's pretty funny. But last year, I was helping Ben prepare for an audition for this ALW Retrospective, and he was singing Gethsemane. Please watch this video and let it change you as it has changed me.
Whether you see it as historical or mythical, Jesus' story is pretty incredible. This nice guy enters a society that is struggling with corrupt leadership, classism, and adherence to their previous religious laws. He starts to teach people how to be nice to each other and correct their religious behavior in a way that benefits everyone. The leadership of the time hates this, obvs, because it goes against what they've been saying, so they work out the best way to get rid of him. Thousands of people were like, this guy is it! We gotta listen! But the leadership said, not so much. He's trying to sabatoge our work! He's not of God! We need to kill him.
The story goes that Jesus, being divinely born (read: sent from God), knew that the leadership was going to react this way to his teaching. He knew that he was going to be killed. So as the time draws closer, he starts preparing his followers as to what to do when he's gone. Then, the night before, he has one last convo with God. That's what you saw in the video.
Okay, so this guy, Steve Balsamo, played the role of Jesus for like, less than a year. Which is honestly too bad. I feel like his conviction and commitment to the role is so whole, and his voice is . . . well. Hello. Not to mention, he brings to the forefront something the musical expands upon that isn't reallllyyy fully fleshed out in the gospel narrative: the interpersonal struggle of Jesus as he awaits his death. Did you hear the line when he says - talking to God -, "Then I was inspired (referring to the beginning of the ministry), now I'm sad and tired. After all I've tried for three years; seems like nintey. Why then am I scared to finish what I started? What you started; I didn't start it." I find this so affective in the way that it emphasizes the humanity and fear that Jesus experienced, just as I would have; but haven't.
I haven't experienced a lot of warranted fear in my life, but I appreciate things that bring me closer to understanding those who do. During Easter weekend - one of my favorite times of year - I think a lot about the fear Jesus experienced doing what he did. And I'm grateful for it.
Biopics guys. They make us better.
PS. This was supposed to go out yesterday - on Good Friday - and I know you're probably reading in on Easter Sunday, which then makes the timing weird. Please, excuse it. Watch the song anyway.