Jesus Christ Superstar, Honest Review

“In ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ an Old Story for (Yet Another) New Millennium”
New York Times

“NBC’s live ‘Superstar’ rose up from its own chaos and found salvation in the end”
Washington Post

“For fans eager to see this blast from the past resurrected with freshness, passion and contemporary attitude, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert delivered.”
Hollywood Reporter

“‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Brings Strong Voices To A Familiar Story”
NPR


There was a lot of hype surrounding this production… a LOT of hype. So how could anyone not want to watch it? As someone who’s always had an interest in religious history, mysticism, doctrine, and systems of belief, and having written two books about it, I have to admit that this caught my eye…

Well… full disclosure, the Alice Cooper credit helped there as well.

I saw the original film production and, while I liked it, I didn’t think that it was really anything special. The songs were enjoyable enough, but I didn’t really see it as anything break through that stood out from other musicals of the time period. So I watched it, I enjoyed it, and I quickly forgot about it.

Years later, I revisited the play and I have to admit that the second time around was better than the first. One or two songs made it onto my playlist as well. Even so, I maintained my original opinion. It was good but offered little that made it stand out against other musicals. Other than it’s somewhat controversial portrayal of Jesus and Judas, there really wasn’t anything that distinguished it.

So, with all the hype, and having been to an Alice Cooper Concert recently… my wife decided to flick it on the other night. We open to a scene that looks like something from an ancient church… being renovated. Okay, okay, right off the bat, I know that this is a stage production, a high budget stage production, but still. We’re not going to get authentic sets like what we saw in the movies, I get that. However… I would have liked maybe a little bit more?

I mean the sets I’ve seen in past musicals that I’ve gone to see have very minimalist sets, but they utilize what little they have and really effectively manipulate the lighting and shadows to make you feel like you’re standing right in the middle of the scene they’re trying to portray. In this case… I didn’t get that. Half the time, I didn’t know if I was inside, outside, or where in Jerusalem we were supposed to be.  So again, this may be a bit of a nitpick, but I don’t think the sets effectively used what they had.

The same can be said for the costumes. Now before anyone get’s after me, yes the costumes for this play have ALWAYS been historically wonky and a weird fusion of modern clothing, but at least the key players had something… resembling period clothing. The Sanhedrin looked like Sith Lords out of Star Wars, and Judas looked like a biker. The tattoos and modern hairstyles also made it hard to tell who I was dealing with if it wasn’t a main cast member. Again, minor nitpick, but it detracted from the experience.

The songs were the same as before, but the performers… yeah I have to admit gave them new life. There was an energy to many of these songs that hadn’t been there before. I was actually thoroughly surprised to see Norm Lewis playing Caiaphas. The moment I saw him, my opinion of the play increased considerably. He is, without a doubt, one of the strongest male singers on the planet right now and I have been a fan of his since he came to the Boston 4th of July Pops celebration some years ago and performed “I Can Go The Distance.”

This was a pleasant surprise for me. For the most part, the songs were well performed and certainly had me tapping my foot the entire time. So I’ll give them full stars for how they did with fairly run-of-the-mill musical numbers. They certainly gave them new life and energy, it wasn’t perfect (and we’ll get to why later), but it was certainly an improvement.

So let’s talk about the casting…
I was pretty much giving Norm Lewis a standing ovation. As I said above, I’m a huge fan of his and he did not disappoint in this role either. Perhaps one of the surprise standouts was Jin Ha, playing Annas. I say standout because he really stole what parts of the show he was in, and that’s pretty big for a relatively unknown actor.

Another Standout was Sara Bareilles, again not someone I’ve heard of before. She absolutely delivered my favorite iteration of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.”

Her singing here was heartfelt and dead on. I thought she nailed it.

Brandon Victor Dixon played Judas. I have to admit, I’m not familiar with him and, given his filmography, it’s not a mystery as to why. That said, I really enjoyed his performance. He was as good, if not better than the venerable Carl Anderson. He easily kept everyone’s attention and brought a lot of energy to the show. It really does look like he’s having fun with the role as he performs.

Alice Cooper as Herod. There really is nothing to say here. If you’ve seen the original production, just hearing that credit should be enough to make you smile and want to see this. If for nothing else, his scene alone should make you want to see this production. He didn’t disappoint… The moment he got on stage and began singing, my wife commented that I was ‘grinning like an idiot the entire time.’ I’ll just leave it at that.

The last cast member I want to touch on is John Legend… I’ve heard opinions going back and forth on this one and… really I feel like he got the role because of his star power. That’s not to say he didn’t do a good job portraying Jesus, I think he did as well as he could with the material given. That being said, in other productions, the role of Jesus was played by people with a more gutteral, rock voice. John Legend’s background is more in R&B and his voice is a lot smoother than what we’d typically expect.

This isn’t his fault, mind you, the problem is that these songs were written for someone with more of a rock voice to sing. So he did a good job with what he could but, the incompatibility with the songs really showed here. He did as well as anyone could expect, but in the end, I really felt like his performance fell flat.

So at the end of the day, was this as big and game-changing as the critics have been making it out to be? Eh… no, not really. I’d give it a slightly better score than the previous productions because they did put a lot of energy into the songs that really made them stand out. The actors put their all into this, you can clearly see that… and of course Alice Cooper was a ton of fun, but for a revival to be successful, you really need to bring something new to the table… and while they tried to do that, most of the efforts really seemed to come up short. I’ll probably buy the soundtrack, because the positive energy in most of the songs was great, but all in all, I was hoping for a little bit more.

In summation, it was good, better than the original, but only marginally so. I was hoping for more. I still recommend seeing it, but don’t let all the hype up your expectations too much.

So readers, what do you think? Did any of you see it? Did you like it? Let me know what you thought of it down in the comments.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

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SOON TO BE… From My Writing Playlist

 

Hi all, so this is somewhat outside of my normal post, but I wanted to put this one on display! So far, everything I’ve heard from Metalite (which is an appropriate name) I’ve heard is terrific. I highly recommend looking into them and placing a pre-order if you like what you hear!

This guys are literally brand new and I really want to see them take off!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Also, if you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Off My Writing Playlist

No Junjou Na Kanjou… let me come right out now and say this… I don’t speak Japanese. I never have. I tried to… but foreign languages are not my strong suit. I successfully learned Latin, and still botch it up on a regular basis when trying to speak it.

Then what are you doing listening to this?

Do you have to understand everything in order to appreciate it? Consider… how many songs out there do you listen to that have Na na, la la, doot doos, scat, chanting in languages you don’t know, or (God help you) yodeling? Several popular songs out there these days have these things. You don’t understand what they’re saying, but you don’t think twice about it.

I look at this like listening to something without lyrics. The vocals, to me, are simply another musical instrument playing.

Also, I’ve tried listening to the only translated versions I’ve heard:

 

Some lyrics just don’t work when translated. This is one of those songs. The English versions are inferior in every way.

When to listen: Um… I don’t really know… right as the hero rescues his/her love? Really I listen to it all the time regardless, but that’s usually when I find myself going directly for it.



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

The Root of My Inspiration

Everyone has a first. Everyone has some band, song, or performer that first got them into what they listen to now. For me, my entry into the type of music I listen to started way back when the genre was in it’s infancy. In fact, this person isn’t technically part of that genre at all, but his music is so close that he served as a gateway before Stratovarius took over.

So where did my entry into hard rock/Metal come from? One name… a man I’ve listened to since I was a child. A Canadian whose American fandom apparently knows no limits.

I’m speaking, of course, about John Parr!

Oh man… what can I say about this guy? Known mostly for his soundtrack songs to St. Elmo’s Fire and the lesser known Restless Heart on The Running Man soundtrack, John Parr was America’s favorite 80s Canadian singer… and boy did we love him.

“We did? But I’ve never heard of him!”

Oh yes you have. Ever listen to Meatloaf? He’s the creative genius behind quite a few of his songs. Even if you haven’t listened to Meatloaf, how could you miss St. Elmo’s Fire?

Following that, Parr had some success on the U.S. Top 40 with songs like Naughty Naughty, though that’s not what I know him for. He hit the chart at #23 in 1984…

After that, he was the lead in the Rock Opera ‘Paris’ in 1989… which if you haven’t seen it, you have my sympathies friends. It’s a good show!

Unfortunately, he disappeared from the music scene at least the mainstream music scene until the early 2000s, and has been active ever seen.

More than one of my mix CDs had St. Elmo’s Fire, Restless Hearts, and Naughty Naughty on them throughout High School. I highly recommend his music to anyone out there that has a (not so) guilty pleasure of 80s Rock and Roll!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Review of Inspiration

So… The Endless Forms Most Beautiful…

I usually don’t do reviews… unless something really annoys me and I need to vent, but this album left me a little vexed.

I love Nightwish. They’ve been around forever, they put on an AMAZING show, and they have a huge body of work that includes serious music as well as lighthearted stuff. ‘Dark Chest of Wonders’ is still one of my favorite songs.

As much as I hate to say this, but the band appeared to be in a state of decline. Parting ways with Tarja was a pretty bad hit, but then they went through a series of guest singers… including Elise Ryd, before settling on Annette Olzen. It was at this point that I simply couldn’t go see them live anymore. Annette was simply a poor choice as a replacement as she was barely able to sing many of Tarja’s songs. Now I know there is a huge debate on pretty much every Nightwish YouTube video on who was the better singer.

‘Anette is a pop princess who isn’t a good metal singer and she has a weak voice.’

‘Tarja was a mediocre opera singer who had run her course and was too difficult to deal with.’

Fine, whatever. I really don’t care about that debate. Regardless of which singer you think was better, I’d like to make two points;

  1. Anette can’t sing Tarja’s songs well. Not in the least:
  2. Dark Passion Play was a departure from their old style and really updated the band, bringing in a new audience and was an amazing album.

So regardless of whether you like either singer, it happened and there’s nothing that anyone can do about it.

Anyway… on point, when I found out that Nightwish was picking up Floor Jansen, I was excited. I followed her work with ReVamp and was a fan. Then Showtime Storytime came out…

Hearing her belt out that last line sent chills down my spine. I now listen to this version of DCOW over the Tarja version. Floor was a great direction for Nightwish. Her style brings back the Tarja crowd while still keeping the Anette fans happy. In essence, she’s a happy medium between the two styles.

So needless to say… I had great anticipation about Nightwish’s next album. The singles came out first. Elan was great and so was the title song. I couldn’t wait to get my hand on the album and listen to it all the way through.
I got that opportunity this morning after it arrived in the mail. I popped it in and the usual mystic-style intro came on. Then one by one I listened to the songs… and my reactions was… meh?

I won’t say that the other songs on the album were terrible, but they weren’t really anything impressive either. Nightwish Albums usually have two or three non-singles that are pretty good and that’s what I usually grab the album for. This… this album had NONE of that.

So is it a terrible album? Well… not really… I mean the two singles are good, the intro song is fine, the music well done and of course Floor Jansen is a lot of fun… but the songs themselves really didn’t jive with me. They’re the songs on an album you let play when you’re not really paying attention and don’t care.

Is it their worst album? NO! Imaginarium still holds that one… seriously, there’s barely a single song on that CD worth listening to. It’s the one Nightwish Album that I refuse to purchase.

So what went wrong? Well… you can attribute many things to this… for starters they recruited a flutist into their ranks who had played with them previously, but was never an official member, second they were just starting out with Floor, but I don’t find the latter to be an excuse. Bands change singers all the time and do just fine:
Dragonforce
Kamelot
Arch Enemy
etc.

Unfortunately, the blame must inevitably lie with Tuomos. What he was attempting to do was a pretty big departure from the style that made the band famous, and while they’ve altered their style slightly in the past, they’ve always kept it within the Realm of Symphonic Metal. This album strikes me far more as Folk Metal, which is really easy to screw up. Symphonic melodies and metal almost go hand in hand, but folk is an almost totally different form of music all together with different themes and different styles. In the end, the songs he composed. while ambitious, fell flat on his face.

So is the album worth a listen? Absolutely. Is it worth the $10 purchase price? Eh… not really, no.

Just remember, this is my personal opinion.  If you like the album, no problem. I can understand why someone would, but to me, it’s a rough draft on something great that Nightwish has in store for us. We’ll just have to wait a few years for their next album.


Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

The Traitorous Main Character

So you’ve written your story. Your characters are beloved, not only to you, but also your reading audience. Well now you’re writing the next part in your series and are ready to do the unthinkable…

You’re going to have one of the characters turn on the others. One of your main good guys is now to become a villain and not just a villain, but one who was the cause of much of the turmoil that the other characters have gone through.

So how do you do it? Up until now, this character has been close to all of the others. They have become well-liked, and your audience has grown attached to that character. How do you suddenly make them the object of scorn?
Well it may not be as difficult as you think and it may not even be necessary. Let me explain…

If you’re going to paint the person as a straight villain, the shock and surprise alone should be enough to turn your readers against the character. If you’ve written it right, your readers should feel just as betrayed as the characters that they are reading about. Having the ability to make your readers relate, and even feel the same emotions that the characters are is a staple of a truly gifted story teller. Just make sure that you provide an alternate view of the events from the past stories so that everything fits into place. This is absolutely essential if the villain role is going to stick.

Above, I said that it may not be necessary to make the traitor the object of scorn. Indeed it isn’t. If you refer back to my Character Complexes thread, you can read up on how to create a villain that may not necessary be evil. Maybe this traitor has family that they are looking for, maybe they’re turning on their friends for what they perceive to be the greater good, or maybe there is a payoff at the end that is enough for the traitor to sacrifice their friends.
The point is, just because the character is no longer a good guy, or on the same side as the main characters, doesn’t mean that they’re bad. Quite the opposite, it just means that their circumstances have changed. That character can still be relateable and even likable.

Now, does that mean that this character won’t come back to the morally ‘right’ in the story? No, there is no rule in place that a character can’t switch sides.

So just remember when writing a traitor, it may be better and even easier at some points to not paint them as a straight villain.

Thanks and catch you all on the flip-side,

Jim

Free Exchange of Ideas…

Can I just ask… what the heck happened?

When I first published my work, I got a lot of comments from readers, both positive and negative. Divinity in particular got positive and negative comments from die-hard Christians and atheists, and I don’t understand the negativity.

I certainly can’t speak for the rest of the world, so if it’s different outside of the U.S. PLEASE let me know.

I don’t mind disagreeing with my views, in fact, I welcome it! I love it when someone posts a comment on Facebook, here, or on my other pages and tells me that they disagree with my message or my assessment of a certain situation or event. I always enjoy hearing about it from the other person’s perspective and then engaging their talking points. That’s fine…

What’s not fine is when people start calling you names or accuse you of racial bigotry. I don’t get that. Nowhere have I ever used racial slurs in anything I’ve written (unless you count sharpy, which many of my characters call elves), nor have I ever said anything about a specific ethnicity or religion that would portray everyone in any of those groups in a negative light.

I’ll provide a perfect example. The other day I was on a newspaper’s website and one person mentioned on the message board that he supported voter ID laws. The next comment accused him of being racist. How is requiring all citizens to prove their citizens racist? Another comment said that it makes it more difficult for poor people to vote. That is a credible argument, but racist? Is the person making that comment inferring that all poor people are minorities, or that the majority of certain minorities are poor? Isn’t the assumption of racism, actually racism itself?

Anyway, I don’t want to delve into a conversation of semantics, so let me get back on point. Why just sit there, yell and scream, and accuse the person of being racist? Why get mad at that person’s viewpoint? What good does that do? Why not instead of resorting to anger, threats, or childish name-calling, you address that person’s talking points. Tell that person why you think they’re wrong and then hear their arguments. You might learn something and they might actually gain some knowledge in the process too. Why is that not a better solution?

By resorting to childish name-calling, you make yourself look less intelligent.

By resorting to misogyny, you make yourself out to look hateful.

By resorting to inserting race or ethnicity into an argument, you make yourself out to be hateful, you water-down justified accusations of racism, and you spit on everyone who actually suffered from racism and fought for equal rights.

All of this takes a negative toll on society. It get’s to the point where Freedom of Expression and Speech take a back seat to people’s’ sensitivity. The problem is that people don’t see the damage being done by this. Someone showing a different perspective on things, as long as it’s factual and historically accurate, should not be met with scorn. Their talking points should be addressed.

Seriously, why get mad? Why break off contact or remove someone from your contact list? Why resort to stupidity? If someone’s opinion truly upsets you, ignore it. Unless they’re specifically saying it to insult you or a group you’re apart of, why get mad? Why not respond and tell them why you think they’re wrong?

All you’re doing is making it more difficult for someone to express their opinions or their views. By accusing someone who expresses a viewpoint of racial, religious, or ethnic bigotry where none was intended or implied, or calling them names, all you’re doing is making another person fear how they’re going to be portrayed by others, including their employers and family, and thus are making it harder for them to put their views to paper, and that’s a terrible, awful thing to do, when the Free Exchange of Ideas is one of the most important freedoms anyone has.

I really don’t want to spend too much time on this, so I’m going to close with a quote from a TV show I loved as a child:

With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured, first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably… The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged. 

P.S. Don’t be afraid to post if you think I missed something or disagree, as I said above, I welcome other viewpoints and would love to address them.