I’m one of the most special people on earth! As the only living being who found some merit in shows like Marie Christine and Minnelli on Minnelli, I now find myself even more martyred by having liked the Jesus Christ Superstar revival! The critics, who are surely going to hell, all said this contemporized version was utter garbage, but I found it perfectly watchable, though I admit that’s coming from someone who generally likes JC followed by Penney. No, the production doesn’t really rethink the show at all, but at least there are some new trappings (Jesus in cargo pants), theatricality (the crucifixion almost has you applauding), and even moving moments amid the random kitsch. In fact, the religious zealots who once picketed the show are now its biggest fans.
The opening-night party at the Manhattan Center was its own ungodly yet redemptive spectacle. You entered via a white, heavenly staircase, then stood at the bottom waiting to be saved or at least given another Cheez Doodle. As we dodged tiny glitter balls being thrown by dangling, out-of-work actors dressed as angels, the photographers yelled, “Jesus, look this way! Jesus, over here!” Instead, I caught the eye of Judas, Tony Vincent, who’d been full-voiced and powerful enough to make one feel much softer about his act of betrayal. “I grew up thinking Judas was a very black-and-white character,” Vincent told me, as Mary Magdalene entered in a backless gown, “but in this production, he’s Christ’s right-hand man and it’s sympathetic.” No shit—in fact, you find yourself rooting for the guy!
By the way, Vincent—an Albuquerque musician-turned-Rent-star who was perfectly content playing Simon Zealotes—didn’t betray the previous Judas. Just weeks earlier, the original performer had been given his last supper and shown the door, and Vincent was shocked to be handpicked for the role. (“It was a decision made by the American producers,” said the show’s publicist.) Did Vincent feel like Ruby Keeler? “No,” he laughed—though he only had three days to learn the part and didn’t even have time to call friends to gloat about it. (“I e-mailed a couple of people and that was it.”)
After giving him a Judas air-kiss, I smooched up to Kiss Me, Kate‘s Marin Mazzie and asked if she thought this star apostle was totally hot. “I’m beyond that young teenybopper ‘hot’ phase,” she said, “but after his big song, I thought, ‘There’s the new teen idol.’ ” The Backstab Boys? Praying for a cab, I left and was handed an invite saying, “Jesus Up Late! Please join us after hours at Serena.” I loved it! Even Jesus has an after party!
But enough with these revivals already; Broadway’s become almost exclusively about afterlife. Practically all the plays I saw as a blushing youth—like Superstar, The Real Thing, Amadeus, and True West—have been belched back to provide new audiences with a retro thrill, and I’m really delighted that my emotional childhood has become their kooky nostalgia. Somebody write a new play!
It’s happening on TV too, where, according to my sources, CBS is looking back on the O.J. Simpson case with an American Tragedy miniseries, and for Marcia Clark the description is “Sexy and will use it. Can also look ravaged and use it.” Speaking of Gary Coleman, Fox is playing the memory game with a one-hour teleflick called—no, not Taller Than a Dwarf, but After
Diff’rent Strokes, about the various tragedies that befell the stars of that cursed sitcom. To play Coleman, they’re looking for someone who’s “no taller than 5-7.” Let me guess: It’s not a documentary. Also aiming for extra stature, my sources say, the upcoming stage version of Thoroughly Modern Millie—based on that funsy ’60s movie about the flapper era—is seeking actors, who are being told, “Think Judy Garland instead of Julie Andrews.” Oh, please—who doesn’t? Amazingly, there is one project floating around about a relatively modern phenom. It’s a musical about riot grrrls, being developed in hopes of a Broadway run. Think Ani DiFranco instead of Bernadette Peters.
The party for Oprah Winfrey‘s magazine, O—which stands for Oh, God, this woman’s more famous than Christ—was a riot, girl, though I haven’t heard the word journey so many times since I tried to find a bathroom in Central Park. Said Oprah, “On the journey, the journey, the journey, we are all inspired by people who lift us up.” Yes, yes, yes—people like her best friend, Gayle King, for whom Oprah has, by her own admission, bought a pool, a nanny, and a BMW, but who, after a whiff of hard work as O‘s editor-at-large, told her, “Bitch, I don’t owe you nothin’!”
The magazine? Too many of the usual bulimic-looking models, seven pages on strawberries, investigative reportage on hosiery and homemade stationery, and the scariest article of all (“Jewel has been keeping a journal since she was a child . . . “). But the airy stuff is mixed in with a Camille Cosby interview and an inspiring sermon called “Make Your Dreams Come True”—you know, on your journey to being able to pay for one more subscription.
The press corps, looking ravaged but using it, trekked all the way to Kenya via Sony Theatres Lincoln Square for the I Dreamed of Africa premiere, which at first was so slowish that I dreamed of Out of Africa—though things picked up as Kim Basinger‘s heartbreak mounted and the wild boars developed more of an attitude. I’m waiting for Hollywood to tackle the plight of native African women, not the noble whites who move there wielding snake repellent, but in the meantime, at least this movie gets better as it goes along. Lately, most veer the other way, like Keeping the Faith, which starts clever and gets formulaic, and Return to Me, which starts cornball and grows unbearable (I didn’t return to its second half). What were they not thinking?
On her recent journey to a good time in Gotham, that genie in a bottle (of Clairol), Christina Aguilera, started cute, but ended up a diva. Two Fridays ago, the pint-size Mariah Carey wannabe in Britney Spears‘s clothing turned up at Krash, the mostly Latino homeboy gay club in Astoria, where she danced delightedly to her own hit record. Alas, Christina’s bodyguard caused a big scene by ripping a camera away from a clubbie who’d dared to snap her—I guess mass adoration is not what a girl wants. Bitch, they don’t owe you nothin’!
Meanwhile, I don’t know what a girl interrupted wants, but Angelina Jolie should probably check out Committed, in which Heather Graham gets flirty with and even kisses her screen sibling, Casey Affleck, who plays “the brother who knows no boundaries.” Alas, girl gets interrupted when she realizes it’s wrong.
But let’s all converge, my brothers and sisters, on a club night that seems so right—Ülträ Thursdays at Spa, the first of which had 11 promoters trotting out three DJs, two go-go boys, and even some straight people, all clearly enticed by the invite featuring a nude baby peeing. The place—a marvel of white—looks heavenly to me, but then again I liked Jesus Christ Superstar.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 25, 2000