Andrew Lloyd Webber - the name provokes all-night campouts at ticket offices and the dreaded words: sold out.
The opening of "Jesus Christ Superstar" on Tuesday evening found an enthusiastic crowd streaming into the Capitol Theatre.As soon as the curtain went up, the theater was vibrating with the overamplified sound of the venerable rock classic.
The distinguished cast carried mikes in hand or used head mikes. Not a breath went undetected. Sung, screamed or shouted, every word projected with numbing effectiveness.
The lighting was spectacular - fog, strobes and flashing beams of color swept the simple set as this "passion play" unfolded.
Ted Neeley reprised the role of Jesus, while Carl Anderson again lent his powerful voice to the role of Judas. Syreeta Wright portrayed the play's Mary Magdalene with a tremulous and haunting voice.
Another standout singing performance came from Lawrence Clayton as Simon. Caiaphas was played by Jim Gricar, who also has a spectacular voice.
Neeley's voice may not be what it used to be - and you get a clue why from his high-pitched screaming as he clears the temple. Carl Anderson is simply a powerhouse in acting and singing.
Yet the spectacular production left a hollow place in this reviewer. Nowhere in the lyrics by Tony Award-winner Tim Rice could be found the peace and joy the real Jesus Christ inspires in his followers. All sound and fury and a tale told with much license.
It was magnificent theater - with Equity's finest and brightest. But Judas' words, "You've started to believe the things they say about you," are difficult for those who have read and believe the original story.
Touches added to make this a '90s production seem crass. "Coming to Jerusalem - Jesus Christ in Person - Live - Plus all XII Disciples" perfectly depicts the tenor of this rock musical.
The anger and furor over "Satanic Verses" becomes just a little bit clearer. The "blasphemy" of depicting Mohammed's wives as whores pales in comparison to this production's temple scene. Huge inflated hands appear on either side of the stage as a cosmic Christ looms in the center stage.
Freedom of speech allows writers in America to make a rock musical of that which is sacred to millions. No Rushdie-like exile is threatened. Certainly those who would be offended by "Jesus Christ Superstar" can just stay home and leave the seats to those who would enjoy the spectacular production. And those who find it more in-your-face than the movie version can leave at intermission.