I Didn’t Expect Jesus Christ Superstar To Be About Jesus

If WatchMojo or another YouTube channel that makes compilations ranking the “Top 10 Scenes From The Office” were to branch out and release “Top 10 Moments We Couldn’t Believe Nicole Was This Dumb,” I’d say being oddly convinced “Jesus Christ Superstar: The Musical” wasn’t going to be about Jesus would be a frontrunner for that video.

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Me: I thought it might’ve been, like, “Jesus Christ, Superstar, the world does not revolve around you.” “No, Dad, that’s your dream! The world revolves around the sun.”

Friend: So you thought the protagonist’s name was Superstar?

Me:

Me: I can’t win.

Several weeks ago, I’d blocked out my afternoon to wait in line for tickets to the Jesus Christ Superstar musical. I’d heard of the Broadway show but knew nothing about the plot, music, or whether any part of it was good.

Roommate: I have no idea what it’s about. Is it, like, religious?

Me: Me neither. And I don’t think so.

My roommate and I had just wanted to go because of the $10 student tickets. (The Bass Concert Hall on campus offers UT Austin students the “Bass Pass,” wherein students pay for a membership that entails “$10 student tickets.” Which sounds like a great deal, except their marketing either didn’t mention or glossed over the fact that you actually have to wait in line for hours—to get the placeholder and then the actual ticket—for the chance at that price. In hindsight, I don’t know why we expected anything less from campus, where suffering is currency.)

The last time I’d tried waiting for Les Mis tickets, they’d run out thirty people before me. So this time, I got there even earlier. However, thirty minutes after I’d gotten our placeholders, I passed by the ticket office and noticed they hadn’t yet run out. That should’ve been the first sign.

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The second sign should’ve been an hour before the show when someone else I know mentioned her roommate had gone to JC Superstar the night before and still didn’t know how she felt about it.

Close to 8PM, Roommate and I showed up to Bass. We were pleasantly surprised by our seats, which were positioned so close to the stage we could almost imagine what it felt like to be rich. We watched the rock band position itself in the tower of the set. And then the show began.

The opening was a long four minutes of people looking like they were right about to begin a solo and then walking away from the center. An electric guitar strummed steadily. Dancers, cool and confusing, whirled around the stage. There were no words, until there finally were, and then I realized I was struggling to pick out a single thing they were singing. For a moment I wondered if I’d forgotten the English language.

I looked over at Roommate. Her face betrayed nothing, though I had an inkling she shared at least a little of my confusion—roommates, after all, have a bond forged by constant maintenance requests, booming construction, and MIA washing machines. We get each other.

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Returning my focus to the stage, I tried harder to comprehend more lines, to no avail. The loud music and un-enunciated words didn’t help, of course, but, keyed in by the very “Jesus” vibes I was getting from the costumes, I was starting to realize I was lacking a substantial portion of background information. Oh God, it was Jesus.

At this point, I should clarify—both Roommate and I are not religious. We do not hate Jesus by any means. We just didn’t know him like that. And we hadn’t prepared for him to show up, otherwise we might’ve read up on him beforehand. The musical, apparently, assumes theatergoers have read the whole series before attending.

List of questions we had due to lack of preparation:

  • Who is that random girl who sometimes pops up to declare her seemingly romantic love for Jesus? Why is her name Mary? (Turns out, that was Mary Magdalene. We’d been excited because we thought “Mary” was “Mother Mary,” the one thing we knew.)
  • Who are the guys in masks?
  • Who is anyone, actually? The cast rarely or possibly never referred to people by name.
  • What is going on?
  • Why are we here?

Walking out of the concert hall, I pulled up the Wikipedia plot summary. I read aloud to Roommate, and our walk home was a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” of belated understanding. Jesus Christ Superstar hadn’t been the experience we’d expected, but we’d hadn’t felt it’d been a waste. We’d paid $10, liked some of the music, experienced the satisfaction of dawning understanding, and also I felt like I’d essentially gone to church. Good deal.

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