(Note: The following story was originally posted at Ars Pro Concreta, my practical advice blog about the performing arts, as “I Dreamed I Met a Galilean: The Superstar That Never Was,” on January 6, 2023. It has been modified for its present audience.)
After over a decade of being “almost famous” (see my bio if you want to know what I mean), I’ve got a million stories of Sleepless in Seattle moments where one of my favorite shows and I passed each other like ships in the night, tales of revivals I proposed that will likely never occur. In very many ways, this is just one more.
If you’re a member of the Jesus Christ Superstar Zone forum, then you’ve already heard this story twice: once back in the day when we had a blog section, and then again on the new boards when I got to reminiscing about four years ago. It’s a tale I often tell because everybody can relate to the best-laid plans of mice and men going awry and also because it illustrates a basic fact of this industry that I don’t think is going to change even with sweeping, much-needed reform: you must be driven to be in the theater, it has to be the only thing you could ever choose to be in, and you’ve got to have rhinoceros skin on top of that, or else the constant rejection and the “if only” of every missed opportunity will eat away at you. But it also makes for a great story later on, especially if you’re writing a book that deals with the possibilities for someone experiencing that opportunity themselves, no matter how large or small the scale.
So… if you’ve followed my exploits both on the forum or on my Tumblr specifically devoted to discussing Jesus Christ Superstar, you’ve probably seen, read, or perhaps even participated in the creation of my many concepts for how I would stage a production of JCS if I were given the chance to hold the reins. I’ve been brainstorming how to do so since the first grade, and everybody who knows me knows that. Indeed, I’ve had so many visions of “the perfect JCS” over the years that, without my ever openly expressing any of my notions, I’ve seen many of them echoed by established directors, which gives me a certain amount of confidence that I’m on the right track.
But did I ever tell you I almost got the brass ring? Here’s my recollection of the chance to be involved in such an opportunity…
First, some brief context to set the scene, most of which you will know if you have known me for some time: When I was in high school in the mid-2000s, through a set of bizarre circumstances stemming from being one of the few people on the Internet to meet an older person that didn’t end up becoming an episode of To Catch a Predator, I found myself under the tutelage of Richard Haase, a noted New York-based writer-director-producer to whom this book is dedicated, and over time, I was lucky enough to rise through the ranks, as much as one can in a core staff of two anyway, and become a director of project development, involved in our stage, film, and TV productions.
One of Richard’s claims to fame was having directed the original Harlem company of Godspell in the late Nineties, one of the few all-black productions in the show’s history to date, which also updated the score’s sound to reflect gospel, rap, hip-hop, and R&B styles alongside the usual folk-rock.
From the minute previews began, artistically, it did very well; there was enough interest early on that Stephen Schwartz himself consulted on the show, and Marla Gibbs (The Jeffersons) wanted to take it to Los Angeles. (For what it’s worth, Schwartz liked the production and helped incorporate new material [first time the new “Beautiful City” lyrics were ever heard on a live stage, to our knowledge]; we even have him on tape saying that, with a little more cash to grease the wheels and spiff it up a bit, it would be the best production he’d ever seen.) Things looked rosy enough initially that Haase even began exploring options for a commercial transfer with several stars. But a) Schwartz had cold feet about going anywhere near Broadway (this was pre-Wicked, and while his first three shows did well, nothing else had), and b) there was a curious silence from the New York critics’ circle about this production. Features, yes (see, for example, the New York Daily News), but no actual reviews from the mainstream critics, and not for lack of attendance, as Playbill’s extensive coverage – linked throughout this paragraph, and much appreciated when few other periodicals covered the “little production that could” – can attest. The Times critic saw it after it opened and even had an encouraging chat with the producers, but the review, which was a rave in the advance copy they saw, never ran. Strange, right? (…or, if you’re an artist of color or working on a project primarily involving artists of color who have encountered the same treatment, perhaps not…)
Naturally, Richard hit back against the lack of coverage, castigating the reviewer base for apparently boycotting an Off-Broadway show seemingly purely for being on 125th Street, a door or two down from the world-famous Apollo, not often the location for an economic competitor with Midtown. The Amsterdam News had no trouble printing its opinion! Why not white reviewers? Of course, when confronted about this by Playbill, the critics had plenty of (laughable, dismissive, condescending-bordering-on-insulting) excuses. To add more insult to injury, major commercial producers had seen it in Harlem and decided there was the germ of an idea there, but it wasn’t slick and polished enough to take under their wing, so rather than put in time and money further developing Richard’s production, they opted to do their own. (He wasn’t thrilled about that either, though ultimately, the competing bid came to nothing.) At least all the noise finally earned the show some Times coverage… when it had already been effectively knee-capped commercially.
The feature articles, the TV appearances, and the pro-shot videos I have of multiple performances all attest this was something special. (To digress for a moment, interested readers can see this for themselves; I recently transferred the VHS tapes to DVD and released the videos online in belated celebration of Richard’s 65th birthday.) But at the end of the 11-month run, while artistically successful, it didn’t take off as it should have in a commercial sense. (To put it mildly.)
About the time I joined the office, Haase was ready to roll the dice again, now with name stars already baked into the package (Ben Vereen [or Jermaine Jackson], Shirley Caesar, Melba Moore, Rain Pryor) and a stellar creative team that would give the production added flavor and texture (Tom O’Horgan [Hair] co-directing, Tony winner George Faison [The Wiz] choreographing, and a producing team featuring Michael Butler [also of Hair]). He even had a tentative go-ahead to start once again with a preliminary run in Harlem; this time, the Apollo itself was interested, and he had also had discussions with churches that could easily seat 1,000 people.
But… in 2007, Paper Mill Playhouse announced their sugar-coated cookie-cutter Godspell revival was eyeing a Broadway transfer for the following year. It would eventually open four years later with the same creative team but re-staged with new arrangements and close after just eight months, having opened to poor business and uniformly mixed-to-negative reviews, all as intermediaries tried to give us a backroom deal for a chitlin circuit-level production and other parties claimed they, too, were offered exclusive rights of some sort. We wisely walked away, smelling a rat.
Richard is part Sicilian and part Jewish, so he takes things like this personally. And when I say “personally,” I mean the vindictive fellow with a silver tongue and brick-laying skills in The Cask of Amontillado has nothing on him in the revenge department, whether or not that aim is ultimately achieved. All of this, I promise, is relevant to understanding what follows.
Rub His Nose In It
Shortly after Paper Mill had announced plans to transfer their Godspell, I was commiserating with Rich about our “loss” when he hatched a new plot. He said to me, if memory serves, something like this: “You wanna know how we cram it up Schwartz’s ass? We call the other guy.”
Before I could ask what he meant, Gmail notified me of a new message in my inbox. I’d been CC’ed on an email to R&H Theatricals, which was then the licensing agency controlling JCS in the States. He’d put in a rights request for an all-black production at a Harlem venue, quoting a budget of roughly $200-$500,000 (American) and describing a moderately sized “special contract” (i.e., a non-union company with one or two Equity guest contracts possible) open-ended run. The creative team he named was more or less the same as our Godspell proposal: himself directing, Faison choreographing, and a producing team that included Butler and Ron Brown (our Harlem-based co-producer on Godspell and a couple of other projects). Further, his first impulse was to go to the finish line with his revenge and cast Michael Leonard James, Jesus from the Nineties Godspell cast, in the title role.
“This could’ve been yours, Stephen! Who’s reaping the rewards now?”
As the initial response from R&H was positive, we began piecing the show together. The production concept was relatively simple, merely re-fitting as much of our Godspell approach onto JCS as possible. The Nineties production and our proposed all-star retread both reset the show in a church basement in 21st-century Harlem during rehearsals for the annual community variety show. The dramatis personae included the many types one would find in that setting, including an imposing “church lady” director, a professional “divo” who thinks he’s God’s gift to the show (later John the Baptist/Judas), youths who want to include rap but are frustrated in their efforts, and so forth. Soon, a ragged homeless man wandered in – guess who? Over the show’s course, he inspired the cast to return from adult cynicism to the straightforward, childlike faith of when they first believed and strive to “see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly,” with the parables filtered through the type of “inspirational theater” one might see in Tyler Perry’s early stage pieces. There was also potent political subtext; at its conclusion, echoing Rodney King and eerily presaging the deaths that inspired the Black Lives Matter movement decades later, Jesus was ridiculed, beaten, and executed at the hands of the police. This wasn’t a Godspell that shied away from the story’s more serious aspects. Indeed, while still recognizably Godspell, the vibe of the Nineties production, at least on tape, seemed closer in many ways to Hair and JCS.
Not all of its conceits, especially the homeless guy’s reveal as the literal white-robed Second Coming, could be borrowed to the fullest extent for JCS. Still, we could update some of the musical arrangements to reflect the then-current wave of popular black music formats, and as far back as the 1973 film, it had been established that the “play-within-a-play” aspect fit like a glove. Besides, from a financial POV, a “JCS in rehearsal clothes” would allow the show to be mounted and staged for peanuts.
There was just one potential stumbling block: at the time, Ted Neeley’s “Farewell Tour” (as it was then billed; while I understand Ted was far from happy about it being advertised that way, I have nevertheless continued to refer to it as such as an easy reminder for fans, for which my humble apologies) was in full swing, and might have a lock on the rights.
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em… Offer Something Better
I was – and am – a huge fan of Ted’s (though I might not put myself in the same category as some of the Tedheads), so I had trepidation about potentially stepping on his toes, especially as I felt that, even at his advanced age, he was consistently better in the role than some people were willing to believe, or at least he was in pretty good shape for an old rocker.
At the time, “some people” included my boss. Richard saw Jeff Fenholt and Ted as Jesus in the original Broadway cast back in the day and didn’t dig either of them. He recalled that Ted was better than Jeff, but that wasn’t saying much; as far as he was concerned, both were generic pretty boys who could sing tenor. (To be fair, this guy was so cultured that as a kid, he dismissed Sweeney Todd as a vanilla, lightweight imitation of Berg’s Lulu and Strauss’ Elektra. He has different standards.) Moreover, the idea of Ted still playing Jesus at his age provoked no small amount of dismay.
But then I showed him a video clip of Ted’s “Gethsemane” on opening night in Buffalo in 2006, and he saw what he felt was growth; there was a new depth to the performance, a grit and mature texture to the voice. As far as Richard was concerned, he was a much better performer than in his heyday. And somehow, he became enamored with the idea of putting Ted in our production, bumping our Godspell veteran down to Judas. We’d have to wrestle over the rights with Troika Entertainment, the tour’s producers, anyway; it’d be better to deal them in and use their star for box office allure, which might afford our original material access to touring markets.
Now, however, there was a new problem. As he mulled over this development, I recall a conversation in which he correctly pointed out that Ted had played this part for so long that the offer might not interest him. “Neither he nor Troika will say yes if it’s just the same job with a different cast; he’s already touring the country in a solid version, earning decent coin. We’ve got to offer something worth rocking the boat for.”
The discussion briefly turned to other roles than JCS for Ted, a “surely he must want one other big part!” conversation, until I let slip that he didn’t even want to play Jesus, to begin with; he’d first auditioned for Judas in ‘71. “Wait, wait, back up… what?” And I told the whole story, known by now to almost any more-than-casual JCS fan. (To make a long story short for the uninitiated: Ted didn’t want to touch Jesus because everyone on earth has preconceived notions that are hard to live up to, jumped at the chance to play Judas and create a character about whom there was something new to say, auditioned with “Heaven on Their Minds,” Tom O’Horgan told him to come back and “do the other guy,” history was made.) This led to an idea that I believe would have been one of our production’s most noteworthy selling points: during our four-to-six-show-a-week schedule, Ted and the other performer would alternate in the roles of Jesus and Judas, giving both actors a unique chance to play either side of one of history’s most significant relationships and giving fans a once-in-a-lifetime, never-before-seen, not-to-be-missed experience.
To this day, I’m not sure if Ted was ever informed of this proposal (he’s certainly never brought it up on the many occasions we’ve met since). However, Ted’s then-manager loved the idea when we broached the subject and said he didn’t anticipate trouble from Troika – if this was as good as it sounded, they might make us the tour instead. Indeed, as we began discussing the proposal around town, people wanted to be involved. The Apollo was interested. The Harlem churches were open to discussing it. And now there was another contender on the scene, also a wildly different production, that gave us a ray of hope.
Interlude: Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL
Renowned musical arranger Louis St. Louis (Grease, Smokey Joe’s Café) conceived the idea of bringing JCS and its score into the world of contemporary gospel, incorporating a choir as a Greek chorus, in 2003, after doing a “best of Broadway” type showcase gig where he arranged “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” as a gospel duet that brought down the house.
We know how out of place his notion sounds. Anyone savvy might easily say to that proposal, “You mean Godspell, right? That’s a terrific fit for Godspell!” And in fairness, that’d be a natural response, especially as Godspell, intentionally or not, was already very close musically to the early contemporary Christian rock/pop of its time. But it also shows how one-dimensional some people’s thinking can be. Many naïvely assume gospel music is all celebration, tambourine-smacking, and clapping. That doesn’t seem to fit with JCS, which takes ambivalence and questioning as its focus and has levels of uncertainty and anger at its core. They forget that black gospel music was born from tremendous struggle, capable of capturing all deep emotions. Moreover, it’s striking to view JCS in this way because, while gospel music is traditionally identified with the story told in the show and the characters who are part of it, the specific way it is presented in JCS has never been explored in the gospel tradition. Such artistic experimentation, especially when paired with textual analysis, had the potential to shine a new light on the material, to bring forth things about the show that no one had considered before.
At any rate, he approached Andrew Lloyd Webber about the notion, and the rep who passed on his “greenlight” reportedly said, “He loved your idea. He turned and asked why all the assholes around him hadn’t come up with an idea this good in 40 years.” Gratified, Mr. St. Louis then spent years trying to place the show. (It took so long that he nearly gave up three times, but it was hard to let go.)
Right around the time we were gearing up to give it a Harlem twist, albeit with more familiar elements, the Alliance Theatre in Georgia gave him the resources he wanted and pulled the trigger on what was eventually known as Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL. It’s safe to say that St. Lulu, as he was known to his friends, achieved his goal to “break the cliché of what people think a gospel choir does.” Consider this review from a fan:
“What’s most miraculous, though, is how the whole concept came together – the seeming contradictions between the style and the play simply did not occur […] I liked how the full choir filled out the sound of the group numbers [particularly “Hosanna” and “The Temple”]. I liked how the adjusted rhythms and orchestrations made the score sound new and exciting. And I liked how the 1960s sensibilities that infuse the show were left intact, without seeming dated, or non-contemporary. It was as if the seeming contradictions of a human/god character espousing ambivalent worldview/eternity view concepts were given a treatment that celebrated and honored those very contradictions and ambivalences. It was a tale of doubt and sadness told in a style that screams certainty and joy, an intricately designed piece that stirred the heart and the mind. It left me breathless.”– Brad Rudy
Another visitor named Aaron C. Thomas (who acclaimed it elsewhere as a “genius reworking”) would later say on Twitter, “The problem with Jesus Christ Superstar is that it ISN’T Jesus Christ Superstar Gospel. #wecannevergobacktobefore #louisstlouis #alliance”
I wouldn’t go quite that far. Different is not always an improvement, and the notion of ‘being different just to be different’ is bogus. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and other such homilies. Many more purist fans eyed it warily, unable to share my excitement, especially considering Susan V. Booth’s “director’s note” in its Playbill leaned strongly in a “we’re doing it differently because we can” direction. Still, as a JCS fan, part of me had grown tired of seeing essentially the same show for almost 50 years (okay, I wasn’t around for all of it, but you know what I mean), so when a demo of the gospel arrangement of “Heaven on Their Minds” (later uploaded to YouTube) first debuted on a theater podcast, it encouraged us. The sound was different, fresh, and unique. It was possible to view the show and its score through new eyes. JCS was indeed capable of being radically reimagined in an explicitly black context. (Okay, the Alliance production had a multi-racial company, but musically speaking.)
It should have been telling that the show never went further than Atlanta. As St. Lulu later confided before his passing, he was, he’d felt, very transparent about the fact this particular reinterpretation would be radical, given the sketch demos he sent to Lloyd Webber via his conduit. But either the message never got across, Lloyd Webber thought he would have more control or the demos never got forwarded upstairs. The affirmation from on high had led to interest from New York producers and multiple offers to record a CD or to tour it. Critics were even more effusive, saying this new version had revitalized a tired relic. Naturally, the composer took a closer interest, not unlike how King Herod gave his special attention to reports about that child born in Bethlehem.
This led, so I was told, to a music librarian being dispatched from The Really Useful Group with a flashlight and a copy of the score, using one to refer to the other during the show. Shortly after that visit, the powers that be laid down the hammer and strong-armed the arrangements into something closer to the original, with the result that about half the final product was recognizably “traditional JCS with a gospel choir tacked on,” with the remaining more creative arrangements playing almost like intrusions. The enforced changes weren’t enough to blunt the show’s overall impact but enough for Lloyd Webber to wash his hands of its demolition.
We’d seen photographs and heard reports from industry friends who attended the opening, and unlike the blatant attempted rip-off of Godspell, we had no complaints. Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL was not copying us and seemed hyperactive compared to our gestating story theater-ish approach. There were many moving parts: four dancers going at all times, a choir that frequently filled the aisles, a very “megachurch”-oriented, almost Gospel at Colonus staging with all-white costumes, and a set dripping with gold. Herod’s entrance was reported to be “wonderfully theatrical,” making quite an impression in a dark purple outfit with three girls behind him. It sounded visually dazzling, but what about the story?
From what we heard, the direction did not adequately emphasize it. The Alliance production seemed to one observer from our circle to have gotten too caught up in using the unique musical approach and its typical setting as a selling point to do basic things like establishing who Pontius Pilate was upon his first appearance. “[‘Pilate’s Dream’ is] a weird song in the show, and Booth’s direction did not solve the problem,” he opined. “Who the hell is this guy? [Pilate] was up on the catwalk [from which Caiaphas and his men also threw silver down at Judas at the end of Act I], and no one knew who he was.”
Of course, not knowing that Lord Andrew was not enamored with the departures from the traditional score in that production, we tentatively explored the possibility of incorporating its arrangements into our bid. This was probably not our wisest move. In retrospect, as much as we loved Ted, we also took in the fact that Lloyd Webber had no problem cashing the checks every time he dusted off the robe and sandals but was notoriously unwilling to accept that anything good came out of the movie or that Ted could still sing it well, and failed to absorb just what that might mean for our prospects…
Assembling the Puzzle
The more our production grew, the more it began to steamroll. With Ted as one of the leads, the casting gradually shifted, becoming more “mostly black” than “all-black.” For example, at the time, we were trying to help legendary JCS fan Evan Grubbs make a stab at becoming a popular musician, and we thought a possible launch, especially given his history with the show, would be to put him in the cast. (Specifically, we had him in mind for Pilate.)
Returning the favor, he informed us that Kurt Yaghjian (Annas in the 1973 film), whom he knew – and had stayed in contact with – from interviewing him for a JCS Zone precursor, was looking for work. His opera pedigree impressed Richard enough, on paper anyway, to pencil him in to possibly reprise his film role; however, we would put off discussing it with him until the production was more firmly established. (Inspired partially by Kurt’s potential casting and partially by a similar moment in our Godspell where “Beautiful City” – the newest song – occurred early in the show, I first made a stab at including “Then We Are Decided” as prologue [outside of discussions with friends] in this production. I envisioned a pre-overture moment where the actors playing Caiaphas and Annas would grouse about not getting to include the song and beg to run through it one more time “before we get started.”) We also had a name performer or two in mind for the roles of Mary and Herod.
I was most proud of an idea of mine that preserved a key element from our Godspell. The Harlem production developed Judas’ growing disillusionment more than most Godspells. For example, atypical for most, they closed Act I with “All Good Gifts” and opened Act II with “Light of the World.” In addition to being an appropriately up-tempo second-act opening, the latter became a moment of celebration where everyone thinks, “Okay, cool, we’re all on board, and whatever this community is or what its purpose will be, we’ve got something awesome,” belying the trouble brewing within the ranks suggested by “All for the Best” earlier. Judas was drunk (“Let’s have some wine!”), not going along with the party atmosphere because he didn’t truly feel part of it, and ultimately erupted in a bitter reprise of “Learn Your Lessons Well” (traditionally a possible opening for Act II), turning his fellow disciples’ earlier words back on them in a disapproving tone, which set up the slide into seriousness for the rest of Act II. Though we couldn’t flat-out copy-paste every moment from our Godspell into this production, as discussed earlier, this particular scene struck me as a JCS-worthy moment; we did, after all, want to use as much of what we had done in Godspell as possible as a personal “blowing of the raspberry,” if you will.
The question before us was how to use the scene. JCS’ structure is fairly traditional in comparison to Godspell. Act II pretty plainly opens with the Last Supper, and the scene’s trajectory is far more predictable as far as telling this particular story goes. But then, one day, listening to rare recordings as I often do, I stumbled across how a snippet of “The Last Supper” was handled on that slab of obscure R&B, The Soul of Jesus Christ Superstar. For those who haven’t heard it (and check out JCS Zone’s YouTube channel for the whole thing), J.D. Bryant and The Soultown Singers give the apostles’ frequent chorus a traditional doo-wop rendering with a touch of gospel, delivered by a soloist with echoes from the background vocals. It was very different from how the song is typically treated, refreshing if a tad odd. It reminded me, sincere though it was in its intent, of John Lennon’s “God” from Plastic Ono Band, with its gospel piano and strident lead vocal.
This got me thinking from a dramaturgical standpoint. The apostles’ lyrics sound very empty-headed – yes, in a similar fashion to “What’s The Buzz,” but sometimes they strike me as unusually dumb, almost to the point of parody. Could they sing those words wholeheartedly with such little self-awareness? They certainly have in other productions, and it does work, but what if our arrangement took its cue from Soul of JCS but played it sarcastically? (I admit, this was also partially inspired by Scott Miller’s analysis of Judas’ motivation in his theater book[s]: “…Judas is pissed because things would’ve still been okay if Jesus had just listened to him! And he feels Jesus forced him to betrayal. Judas is disgusted with Jesus and his naiveté, and he’s probably drunk.”)
Picture it: Judas, struggling with the weight of his decision, wine in hand, has got a heavy buzz rolling. He’s hit the self-loathing part of the spiral and hit it hard. As the apostles and Jesus enter and settle down to dinner, good-humored, ready for Passover, at a distance, Judas, angry and fed-up, gives full vent to his view of these fools with too much heaven on their minds, deriding them in caricature as shallow hangers-on who don’t get Jesus or his purpose, just waiting to spin off memoirs from the adventure and live on in legend.
After we heard the gospel production’s arrangement, which played the first chorus fairly traditionally (albeit with some “R&B slow jam” keyboard sounds) but then rapidly evolved into a “gospel brunch” take brimming with energy, handclapping, tambourines, and lots of riffing, we even figured out how to meld the two ideas together: first Judas would mock them, and then the dim-witted rabble would pick up on his theme and “take it to church.” When Jesus entered, Judas would smirk at him, with a vibe of “Do you hear what’s coming out of their mouths, and realize what it says about them?” (Think Last Temptation, when Jesus gestures to the poor, oppressed, and disabled, and says, “They’re going to be our army,” and Judas snaps back, “We’re going to need better men than this.” Or, for that matter, any of Jérôme Pradon’s told-you-so moments in the 2000 film.) I was immensely proud of myself for creating what I felt was a powerful scene on paper, one Michael and Ted could sink their teeth into in either role.
In case you can’t guess from the thrust of events, I admit we got ahead of ourselves in the process. As you can see from picking up both Ted and the gospel arrangements, we began trying to tie together the working pieces of every major JCS bid at the time of our production, with some of our ideas sprinkled in and through it. I had grandiose visions of us becoming “the new production,” like Glenn Close bumping Patti LuPone from Sunset Boulevard on the strength of buzz and reviews.
But just like a runner’s high doesn’t come from thinking about the result, only the moment, we didn’t piece together in our heads that we were making too much noise, utilizing elements that – in retrospect – Lloyd Webber never seems to have liked individually (much less to see gathered in one place), and that if it caught his attention, he might not be amenable to our efforts.
And so it was that we were knee-deep in planning, and preliminary offers were going out to certain cast members when the bottom dropped out.
When a sad end occurs in the theater world, it’s usually quick and without warning, like ripping off a Band-Aid. Such was the case with us. Suddenly, R&H got back to us to inform us that there was about to be a major production of JCS at Madison Square Garden, and consequently, the rights were unavailable. As you might guess, this was the equivalent of a “stop work” order. The whole thing ground to a halt swiftly, ignominiously. (Incidentally, no JCS ever opened at Madison Square Garden; the closest it came before we ever conceived of this was the Nineties reunion tour briefly playing at the Madison-owned Paramount Theater, and the closest it came after was being one of the venues set to host the American leg of the 2012 arena tour, which ultimately failed to launch.)
Many of the elements that made the idea so special (the alternating Jesus and Judas, “Decided” as prologue, etc.) have since become part and parcel of my ultimate vision for doing the show, no matter what finer details change. (Should that interest you, click here to access my latest directing proposal for JCS. Additionally, while this is not a 1:1 reflection of the “Musical Arrangements” section of my notes, I assembled a “JCS mix tape” of sorts with the help of a friend that I hear in my head when I picture what I describe in the proposal, which you can listen to by clicking here.)
While this was an idea I was interested in and deeply engaged with at the time, I wouldn’t make the same choices at 33 that I did at 20, nor (I think) would anyone. (Today, I’d likely forego the star casting to stick to the initial all-black, or at least all-POC, approach.) But the idea’s bones are still strong. And I can’t help but occasionally think about what might have been, or ponder what might be around the corner…