1970s musicals

Superstar, taking on shadows

Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1970s concept musical was a show for its times. Michael Streeter's "Superstar" revival at Post5 is a show for our times, too.

Jesus of Nazareth, the historical man and radical upstart, probably had no plans to become famous, and given what we know, fame would’ve cramped his style. But a superstar he became, and for the first time in many years, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Jesus Christ Superstar is being produced on a professional Portland stage with Michael Streeter’s current version at Post5.

I spoke with Streeter on the phone, and he said he’d coveted his older brother’s vinyl copy of Jesus Christ Superstar when he was a kid. Nobody would produce the musical, so it was first a hit in 1970 as a concept album in the United States. Lloyd Webber noted that, by being limited to that format, he and Rice cut all the extras and fat from the normal progression of a stage musical. Eventually it became a staple onstage, too, running for more than 700 performances on Broadway beginning in 1971. The productions Streeter has seen over the years resembled a church Passion Play, and with his, he wanted to get to the heart of the matter, much as the original album did for the composers.

Ernie Lijoi as Jesus and Ithica Tell as Judas. Photo: Greg Parkinson

Ernie Lijoi as Jesus and Ithica Tell as Judas. Photo: Greg Parkinson

Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical giant and has rocking good tunes. The lyrics are clever, and the songs easy enough to sing along to: the seeds of what would become a powerhouse career for Weber and Rice are evident.

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