Broadway Across America
Directed by Dallett Norris
One of the many things Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice got right in their rocking retelling of the Christ story was to emphasize Christ’s humanity. His capitulation to death is all the more compelling, because he knows what it is to live. He feels Mary Magdalene’s caress and is cut by Judas’ betrayal.
Unfortunately, in this retread directed by Dallett Norris, Christ often seems removed from his surroundings. Ted Neeley, who was so captivating in the 1973 film version, repeatedly turns away from his followers, to move his lips silently as if in conversation with God. As Judas, Corey Glover (from the band Living Colour) hardly makes eye contact with the cast or the audience. He has the pipes, but not the passion for what is, after all, a love story.
Both leads seem to be saving their physical and emotional energy for something else. Perhaps Neeley is pacing himself to reach those tortuously high notes. The 60-ish star’s voice remains amazingly rich, and he can still screech convincingly, except for a few flat notes held too long.
Worse than loss of range is the loss of connection to the lyrics, which Neeley had shown in his youth.
The supporting cast rarely disappoints. Through free-form ’70s choreography, they portray a mob lusting for eternal life. Tiffini Dodson is the essence of earthly and vocal beauty as Magdalene. Thomas Lash surprises as a Pilate who inspires, almost sacrilegiously, more sympathy than Christ.