By God, it rocks
Jesus Christ Superstar
Back in 1973, little Corey Glover sat in a darkened movie theater, bewitched by Jesus Christ—or, more specifically, by Ted Neeley’s utterly cool depiction of the good Lord in Norman Jewison’s film adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Now at 42, Glover gets to rock out every night with his childhood icon. Glover is playing the ultimate bad guy, Judas Iscariot, in the 2006 national tour (dubbed the “Farewell Tour") of Jesus Christ Superstar, coming this weekend to the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.
“This is one of the juiciest parts you could ever get,” says Glover, who is also thrilled to be performing beside the film’s original J.C.—Neeley himself, at age 63, is resurrecting his performance as the Lamb of God. This farewell tour is directed by Dallett Norris and features choreography by Arlene Phillips.
But Glover is quite the superstar himself. At age 14, he landed his first film role, a lead in Platoon. Since then, he’s appeared in three other films: The Keeper, Reunion 81 and Loose Women. He’s probably best known as the lead singer of the band Living Colour, the hard rock Grammy winners for “Cult of Personality” and “Time’s Up.” While this isn’t Glover’s first stage performance—he’s also appeared in Godspell and Fallen Angel—this is his first national tour.
“This is a show I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” he says, insisting that there’s not much difference between his role as Judas and that of Living Colour frontman. “It’s all performing, and it’s all rock. … And the most important part is the music, how powerful and emotional it is.”
Jesus Christ Superstar, a rock opera created by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber in 1971, tells the story of those last, turbulent seven days of Jesus’ life, ending with his crucifixion. As the show opens, Judas expresses concern over Jesus’ rising popularity among his followers. Too much blind faith in any leader, Judas believes, isn’t healthy.
Jesus, on the other hand, thinks Judas worries too much. His source of stress is the constant nagging from his devotees. So he turns to Mary Magdalene (Tiffani Dodson) to help him relax. This also worries Judas, who feels Jesus’ association with this “concubine” contradicts everything he has preached to his followers.
Meanwhile, high-ranking Jewish priests like Caiaphas (Larry Alan Coke) are concerned about Jesus’ influence and growing popularity, believing it a threat to the Roman Empire. Although Caiaphas concedes that “this Jesus is cool,” he believes the only feasible solution is to kill Jesus.
After a series of events indicating that the priests’ fears are warranted, Caiaphas demands that Judas reveal Jesus’ whereabouts. Although he refuses initially, out of loyalty to his friend, Judas’ concerns continue to grow until he believes he has no other choice but to betray Jesus.
You know the rest—Jesus holds his Last Supper, is eventually brought before Pontius Pilate and then suffers and dies on the cross.
Some Christians in the ‘70s were appalled at this sympathetic portrayal of Judas. So is it hard to play the man Christians love to hate?
“It’s not hard to play him,” says Glover. “You just have to look inside yourself. He’s conflicted, confused, hurt, angry. How many people do you know who have taken the wrong path, gotten into relationships you don’t approve of, or gotten into the wrong crowd? How would you feel? It’s a powerful, emotional story, and you’ll walk away moved.”