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09 January 2009 @ 10:39 am
Jesus Christ Superstar (a. k. a. The Judas Show)  

I went to the theatre yesterday, which is a very rare occurence, but this one I couldn't miss: Jesus Christ Superstar, the original recording of which is one of my absolute favourite records, starring Ola Salo from The Ark. I don't know if they're known outside Sweden at all, but The Ark is one of the few "real" bands - with competent musicians who write their own songs and had been toiling forever before their first record came out - you hear on the radio nowadays. I'm not exactly a fan of theirs, but I whole-heartedly support them, and Ola Salo is a classic glam rock frontman who I can't help but love. He seemed like the ultimate casting choice for this Jesus character, and I was thrilled as soon as I heard the news that he was going to do it.

So I was one of the masses who bought the ticket mainly for Ola, but he was actually nothing special. He's a great, theatrical rock singer, he completely owns the stage when he's with The Ark, but he mainly did his usual stuff and it wasn't enough in this case. The show was stolen by Judas, who made Jesus look like a pale little ponce in comparison. Until yesterday evening, I would have thought it impossible to outshine Ola Salo on a stage, but this guy did it. Henceforth, I'll think of this rock opera as The Judas Show.

It wasn't that Ola Salo wasn't like Ian Gillan in the original recording, I didn't hope for him to be. They have very different voices, and Salo had talked a lot in interviews about how he wanted to avoid imitating Gillan. I actually thought that was what he was doing much of the time, and it didn't quite work. Pilate, like Judas, was a positive surprise, though: an enormous thug of an opera baritone who alternated his classical singing technique with thundering heavy metal roars. Pilate is rather pale in the original recording, but this was a genius take on the character. Other characters had got weird treatments: Mary Magdalene was unexplicably a hippie, and I'll probably never know why Herod was wearing a sparkling, blue, sequinned dress and was accompanied by bikini-clad dancers in wheelchairs. And did the Roman guards have to look like fifteen-year-olds dressed up for a live-action role playing game in their back yard?

There were times when I thought the lack of movement on stage didn't quite live up to the intensity of the music, but all in all it was definitely an enjoyable show. The ample opportunity for homoeroticism in the text was seized, too. Judas was unambiguously jealous of Jesus' relationship with Mary Magdalene, and the kiss in Gethsemane was a long liplock with a good amount of tension preceding it.

I've spent the morning on Youtube, and what did I find? The Judas guy is there, too, and has uploaded this recording with stills from the Malmö show. Obviously you had to be there to really get the point, but it's nice to watch this and relive it...

Also, I wrote him a note of appreciation via his account. I love the internet!
freak out, far out, in out: icons || smile if you're gayhobbit_feets on January 10th, 2009 08:52 am (UTC)
*is ridiculously excited by this post*

I adore The Ark, and Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my favourite musicals, without a doubt, so to see the two combined is a joy unlooked-for. I had no idea Ola Salo did theatre. But seriously? No matter who you cast as Jesus, JSC is going to be The Judas Show. It's why I love it so much. Excellent rendition of 'Heaven on Their Minds' there- in keeping with the original, whilst still obviously updated, less of the 70's rock there, with a hint of metal to the guitar.

Interesting what you say about Pilate, though. Barry Dennan's performance on the original cast recording is a little weak, I'll concede, but he also plays Pilate in the movie, with Ted Neely and Carl Anderson, and his is one of my favourite performances. Though I will confess I have a weakness for soft menace and British snark.

Also, of course, glad to hear that the homoeroticism was taken for what it is. Because seriously? The show is brimming over with it.
mrs_conclusion: wohoo!mrs_conclusion on January 10th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
Hooray! I didn't expect anybody to be interested in this entry at all, and hearing that our Ark boys aren't just a local phenomenon makes me childishly happy!

I don't think Ola Salo has done any acting before at all, but he's an old fan of The Judas Show and a multi-talented person. If you're interested in a bit of Ark trivia, the original recording has been Ola's favourite cleaning music for ages (he turns the volume up and plays all the parts while vacuuming his flat) and staging JCS used to be standard procedure at parties when he was younger. He and his friends used to drink six-packs of beer, use the carton wrappings from the beer packs (there's probably an English word for this...) to make hats, and then everyone was given a part according to what kind of beer-hat they were wearing.

I originally bought the JCS recording because of Ian Gillan, and my unending love for his singing might be a factor here, but I've never been that taken with Murray Head's Judas. The character is interesting, of course, but in my (strongly biased) opinion, Ian Gillan outshines everybody and Murray Head comes across as a bit of a second-rate Gillan, with all the high-pitched screaming, rather than an original singer. This stage production radically changed my way of relating to the whole work, which is a great experience! I've always thought that the second act was a little dull, musically, compared to the diversity of the first, but when you actually see the events acted out, the impression becomes very different.

I realised yesterday that I really, really want to see that movie! mr conclusion doesn't seem keen, though, so I'll probably take an afternoon off and watch it on Youtube next week, it seems to be available there in its entirety.

Also, I'm unoriginal enough to love Herod's song and Mike d'Abo's delivery of it. Might as well take the opportunity to gush while somebody's listening!
Kelpiekelpie667 on January 11th, 2009 09:27 pm (UTC)
I also know The Ark: A friend gave me one of their albums and I was listening to it quite a lot last spring.

I have to admit, that I'm not really into musicals, so I can't say much about the rest of your entry. I vaguely remember, that we watched a film version of Jesus Christ Superstar when I was in school but I don't remember anything specific.
mrs_conclusionmrs_conclusion on January 12th, 2009 09:19 am (UTC)
How cool! Malmö has two celebrity flagships, Ola Salo and the footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and whenever I hear one of them mentioned in a non-Swedish context I feel ridiculously proud. And I should point out that I don't care for football!

I generally hate musicals, but Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera with wonderfully funky, early '70s music, and I love that. It's a bit like a cross between early Deep Purple and Queen, but of course that's not everybody's cup of tea.