I rented the new direct-to-video British version, and while Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice really like it, I did not.
Judas was too shrill and whiny, Pilate overacted, and Jesus was bland and and dull. In addition, the production seemed very anti-Semitic, showing Jews hitting Jesus with bloodstained hands, and putting the Romans in Nazi costumes was historically illiterate (The Romans were more like Americans than anything else, and certainly not butchers like the Nazis). So far, nothing has topped the original 1970 concept album, IMHO.
While JCS is a powerful drama, Godspell portrays the parables from the gospels with a more sincere and emotional outlook, especially during the the Crucifixion. Songs from Godspell, like “By My Side” can make me cry, something JCS has never made me do.
I have always wondered why both musicals end with the Crucifixion, since the story is incomplete without the Resurrection. The Cottonpatch Gospel, a musical by the late Harry Chapin, has one actor playing all the roles with a bluegrass band playing the music, as it tells the Gospel set in Georgia instead of Israel. So Jesus is born in a trailer in Gainesville instead of Bethlehem., gets lynched by the governor of Georgia, and it ends with Jesus rising from the tomb. And the music is outstanding if you like folk and bluegrass. The Cottonpatch Gospel is an extraordinarily powerful musical, and I defy anyone, even a hardened atheist like me, not to weep at the Crucifixion scene.
I also really dig Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion. Although modern audiences used to Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys might find it daunting, it is an amazing piece of music.
So what religious music are you listening to this Easter?