Actors, Take Heart: Original Lead Back in “Superstar”

One of the most famous musical extravaganzas of the early '70s -- a decade that was teeming with musical extravaganzas ("Xanadu," anyone?) -- is on stage at the Wilshire Theatre for six days only. And the biggest headline of this particular staging of "Jesus Christ Superstar"? Ted Neeley as Jesus. If you saw the epic, still hugely popular 1973 film version, you might recognize Ted Neeley... as Jesus.

If this makes you pause, you're not alone; we've been mulling about it for days. How wonderful is it that an actor is back in the same role over three decades later? How often does that happen, really? We say this while living in a town where actors can be told they're looking too old for a part a month after they were first offered it. And the lead in "Jesus Christ Superstar" also has a specific, well-known age attached to it (in other words, it isn't "Benjamin Button"-y situation, where the actor can be young/old/both); Neeley is now 65.

Granted, "Jesus Christ Superstar" and Ted Neeley have been tied throughout the years (this isn't the first time he's revisited the production). But, in a season of strike talk, dispiriting industry-related headlines and economic woes, we like seeing a happy story of an actor who hasn't been sent away for gaining a few crinkles about the eyes.

Also, maybe this production will finally bring that little-known auteur Andrew Lloyd Webber his due. Didn't he do something with "Phantom" back in the day?

"Jesus Christ Superstar"
December 16-21
The Wilshire Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills

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