Jesus Christ Superstar: Is Ted Neeley too old to play Jesus?

I think my sister is moving into my apartment building in the next couple of months. Since she’s the sister I get on best with, I’m happy.

When I was talking to her about buying tickets for me and mudgirl to go see Annie, live on stage, in Morgantown, she was jealous. She loves live theater, especially musicals! (Yes, she’s gay, but she’s a girl. . .go figure. . .:wink: ), and that lead me to look at what else the theater had coming up. One of the things she’ll be here for is Jesus Christ, Superstar, which she loves! (Also, Romeo and Juliet, but that’s a whole 'nother topic).

Anyway, this particular presentation of JC,S STILL has Ted Neeley playing Jesus! Now, I’ve heard the expressions “Older than Jesus”, etc.

But doesn’t this seem to be pushing the envelope?

Is it just me? I’m not that attuned to musical theater.

I saw Ted Neeley play Jesus last year. Our seats were on the floor about 13 rows back, and from there, you really couldn’t tell, visually, that he was substantially older than the rest of the cast. I mean, you could tell he was older, but I don’t think it was obvious he was 65.

Musically, he was pretty good, but there were definitely notes he did not even try to hit. I suspect people who were unfamiliar with the original recordings may not have noticed the change in notes, but we did. His voice is pretty strong, but not as strong as it once was. I’m fairly certain that if he was just a regular guy who auditioned for the role, he would not have been cast.

It was an enjoyable production (although they inexplicably changed King Herod’s song from the awesome ragtime version it should be to some lacklustre salsa version), and I’m glad we went. Obviously, it would have been better to have seen him 30 years ago, but it’s still worth it to see him today, I think, although I wouldn’t make the effort to see him again.

I’d love to have seen a past-his-prime Yul Brynner play The King of Siam, or an elderly Richard Burton play King Arthur, just for having seen it. So it is with Ted Neeley as Jesus. It’s not optimal, but you can tell the grandkids you saw it.

To which the grandkids would reply “Ted Neeley? Who’s he?” :stuck_out_tongue:

I did see Brynner on stage in that role, and even though it was his last revival of The King and I (1984? 1985?), I wouldn’t say he was past his prime. He gave his all to the performance, and turned in a superb one. When he came out to take a bow after the show, I will never forget the big smile on his face. Given his health and his age, that revival must have exhausted him; but during the show I saw, he never gave the impression that he was past his prime.

I saw him in this role a couple of years ago. Yes, he is too old. At the end, on the cross, he seems to be wearing a Depends. I saw him maybe 10 years ago as well, and his voice was still quite good, but IMO the most recent time he just wasn’t cutting it. My sister and I both agreed that he needs to pass the loincloth on to someone else. Also, his performance has gotten a lot more eccentric.

Age doesn’t matter as much on stage (no close-ups) as it does for movies or television. Mary Martin was 36 when she first played Nellie Forbush in South Pacific – at least 10 years older than the character – and 46 when she played Maria in Sound of Music.

That said, when the voice goes, it goes. I saw Richard Harris in a revival of Camelot when he was about 60, and Carol Channing on stage when she was about 65. Both of them still had plenty of stage presence and skill, but their actual performances were weak.

Ted Neeley? Meh.

If you HAVE to have a 60-something Jesus, better to bring back Ian Gillan!

Regarding the eccentric performance, at the show we saw, at the part where Jesus is questioning God as to whether or not he really has to die, Neeley played Jesus as very angry. It was a little over-the-top, but what made us giggle a little (discussing it afterwards in the car) was when he was shaking his fist at the sky: “You stay off my lawn, you young whippersnapper!”

Come to think of it, there was a lot of his ‘acting’ that was really over-the-top. I think it was mostly when he was chatting with God - a lot of extremely exaggerated gesturing and flailing of arms.

It’s odd that he didn’t start out that way, and has become more eccentric over time. Perhaps he’s trying to distract from the weaker voice?

We saw JC Superstar with him a couple of years ago. Judas was played by Corey Glover, who just blew Neeley off the stage. Ted, at least at the time, just didn’t have the vocal chops for the part.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to see a Neeley production of JCS.

Saw Ted Neeley, the late Carl Anderson (both of the film cast) and Irene Cara as Mary M back in the early 90s.

The latter two were pretty good. Ted was past his prime.

Is Ted too old? Probably. Would I go see him do it? If I ever get the chance.

He came to the theater where I live and I didn’t go see him, though not for his age so much as the fact I couldn’t stand him in the movie and didn’t figure he’d be better 35 years later. (He didn’t have the charisma or the build to play the role imho.) Those I did know who saw him said his age wasn’t that noticeable but the fact he was one of the weakest actors in the play was.

Yes, but what else can he do? He’s had a longer career playing the superstar than the original did.

Yeah, but Judas’ part is just…I don’t know…written, so powerfully! Right? There was nothing Jesus could do with Judas! His voice and part was just too much!

(My favorite being Carl Anderson from the film, but that may because I have never seen a real broadway production)

A friend of mine was Ted Neeley’s understudy on last year’s tour, and he (my friend) never went on. The man’s a powerhouse.

Yes, the gesturing was specifically what I was thinking of. It was just silly.

I saw the revival 15 years ago when Carl Anderson was also touring, and we joked how Judas had aged much better than Jesus. Neeley still was good though. We saw the one with Corey Glover as well, and he was awesome.

Carl was playing Judas when I saw it here in Charlotte several years ago. He kicked ass and didn’t bother to take names.

Maaan, I have been wanting to get it on with Judas for years! Holy crap, he is sexy to me. And that powerhouse voice is just chills inducing.

He died, though, right? Not Judas, I mean, Carl. I know Judas died.

H.B. Warner played Jesus in King of Kings in 1927. He was 52, which was arguably “older” then than 65 is now.