Jesus Christ Superstar


This was done at the late, great Astor Theatre. This theatre was a wonderful Art Deco theatre that opened in 1928 as a movie house. It was built by William Harold Lee. It was in regular operation until 1975, after which, it was used sporadically for one-off events, like Superstar. It was finally demolished, after 2 decades of deterioration, all the while "Save Me" spray painted across its front, in 1998 to make way for the Sovereign Center. SC is unarguably a more modern, useful venue, but the Astor's demolishion was, in my opinion, a tragic loss.

On to Superstar.

The Astor interior was a fabulously eerie theatrical playland. It was also the perfect venue for this show.

One joy of working in this theatre was that for a change, we had actual fly space - this is the space above the stage which one can use to hang drapes, large flats, etc. that "fly" in from above to create the set. This allowed us several theatrical "tricks" which would never have been possible at our small theatre.

One of these effects was the hanging of Judas (Brian Gibson).

During Judas' suicide scene, a noose descended from the flys, seeming to come from, heaven?, who knows.

The Tormentors, two dancers in dark brown burlap sacks, looking like raisins or flat potatos with hands, placed the noose over Judas' head. They also secretly attached the cable to the special crotch to chest harness that would allow Brian to be lifted from the stage, seemingly by his neck, but actually very securely, and safely, supported, placing no strain on his neck whatsoever, where he would die dramatically and the scene would end.

That was the theory, at least.

The problem was that the harness was tested on a small-framed, probably about 130 lb, guy. Brian was a large-framed guy, besting the test weight by at least 70 lbs.

First performance: the noose carries Brian up from the stage. He is acting as if he's being hung. Then suddenly, he is incredibly convincing, he truly seems to be reacting to hanging by his neck.

Suddenly, we all realize that he is not acting, that he is actually being hung.

The curtain comes down quickly, as does Brian, who is all at one time, scared shitless, dazed, and blazingly furious (as one would expect). He is, however and thankfully, ok. The show continues. The audience is none the wiser.

One does have to wonder how many times an audience is totally unaware of the "real" drama occuring on the stage.