Monday, March 28, 2005


Easter has come and gone, and it was pretty good. Alot of sibling/family time together. Our family will get together for just about any reason to have dinner, drink beer and just be together. I feel lucky in that regard. Who'da thunk that my bratty little sisters would turn out so cool? It took years, mind you, but we're all pretty close. It helps that the whole family, except for one sister, lives in Helena. Mom & Dad are at the tail end of their 3 months of Hawaiian vacation, so they missed out, but we went on without them.

It dawned on me last night that I usually come home, full from Easter dinner, and watch the rest of "The Ten Commandments" on TV.
Lo and behold--no one was televising it last night! Somewhere in my upbringing, I got hooked on all those epic Charlton Heston religious-ish movies: "Julius Caesar", "Ben Hur", "The Greatest Story Ever Told", "The Agony and The Ecstacy", and perhaps the best--"The Planet of the Apes". Of course, I have the DVD of "Commandments", but it's not quite the same as watching it with all the commercials interrupting it. So I watched two other distinctly different Easter movies:

I watched "Passion" when it first came out last year, and in spite of the violence, blood and gore, I thought it was a well made movie. It certainly gave us a view that most of us never imagined. Even without subtitles, you pretty much knew who the characters were, thanks to years and years of Sunday school, Bible studies or whatever. After watching it at home on DVD, I found that the blood and violence wasn't as shocking as in the theater. Perhaps due to the relative size of the screens. Maybe because I knew what was coming. In any case, it still comes off as a pretty good movie.

So I followed that with the 1973 DVD of "Jesus Christ Superstar" (there's a 2001 version that's not quite as good). Many of us who grew up in the early 70's could sing every lyric of every song off that original double LP. I remember when my mother bought it and brought it home in 1971. She had volunteered to teach a religious ed class that year, and was going to somehow use the recording in her class. I was in the 8th grade at the time, and was well into my dorkiness. I remember being very apprehensive about the whole thing, and knew that Mom was going to go straight to Hell for blasphemy or something. The whole rock music/Jesus/"Superstar" thing just didn't sit right with my Catholic upbringing. Especially the word "Superstar". The song "Superstar" was just hitting the AM airwaves (the Carpenters' version of the Leon Russell song--like I said, dorkiness had set in). I somehow thought that using Jesus and Superstar in the same title was some sort of play on the Carpenters' version. Again, like I said--DORK! But once I listened to it, I was hooked. Since that time, I've collected about 6 different versions of the opera (yes, dorky)--Broadway, movie soundtrack, London, 20th Anniv., etc. Even a version where the Indigo Girls play Jesus and Mary Magdalene, with Atlanta-area musicians contributing (pretty good, actually). But none of them are quite as good as the first one.

I had the joy about 7 years ago to conduct the pit orchestra for this (though I would have also loved playing the bass guitar--yes, I also play that) and also had the role of King Herod (yes, I can sing & dance, too!). I can honestly say that "Superstar" was a major influence on my music throughout my life. But after watching "Passion" the first time, I sort of felt that "Superstar" came up a bit trivial. And I haven't watched it in well over a year.

I'm happy to say that after watching them back to back, "Superstar" holds its own quite well. Same story, different telling. And even though they're over 30 years old, the "Superstar" movie and original recording can stand up to anything out there. There's a comfort of knowing the thing inside and out, and I just might have to make it a part of my regular Easter routine. Sorry, Chuck.... Unless I decide to watch all three during Easter weekend!

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