Jonathan Gorst put on “Jesus Christ Superstar” for the Riviera Supper Club’s quarterly dinner theater because he wanted to do something that fit with Holy Week in the days preceding Easter, when Christians celebrate the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Gorst’s show got a second act for Maundy Thursday and a third for Good Friday services at two Glenwood Springs churches.
“The show is really based on the last week of the life of Christ. It’s a very loose interpretation of it,” Gorst said.
All three nights of the dinner theater performance earlier this week were sold out. The evenings included seven songs from the musical paired with seven Middle Eastern, Hebrew and other dishes.
The biblical story of Christ’s Passion presented in a rock-opera musical may seem as strange a pairing now as it did when Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice wrote the show in the late 1960s.
“Andrew Lloyd Weber was in college when he wrote that show, dreaming of being a British rock star and writing some amazing musical theater,” Gorst said.
No one in the London stage scene would produce the show, but it was released as a concept album in 1970 and became an instant hit. It only took a year for the show to make a debut on Broadway.
The show is not scripture, but is a retelling of a story told in the gospels, with a twist: The production is told from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus to the authorities to be sentenced to death on the cross.
“Fifty years on, I don’t think we really appreciate what an edgy, and fresh, and, dare I say, radical perspective this work presents of our Lord, and of Holy Week,” Carol Lillie, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Glenwood Springs, said.
Lillie remembers wearing out her first record of Jesus Christ Superstar when she was young.
SECOND ACT IN THE SANCTUARY
The idea for Scenes for Reflection: Jesus Christ Superstar, performed Friday at 6:30 p.m. at United Methodist Church, started last fall when several of the local Protestant churches met to think of ways to collaborate on music and other events.
In February, Gorst began discussing sharing the Riviera’s production to Holy Week services and Lillie began working on a program that incorporated two of the songs.
“For me, every time I approach either Christmas or Easter, I try to bring these stories that we think we know so well to mind, and have people consider the relevance in our modern lives. It’s a question of how your faith makes a difference in your life today,” Lillie said.
Arthur Williams, who assists the choirs at Glenwood Springs High school and Middle School and plays the eponymous lead role in the Riviera’s dinner theater production of Jesus Christ Superstar, will join Gorst’s piano accompaniment and Pontius Pilate for two critical scenes re-enacting the time leading to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Gorst and Williams also performed a selection of the musical as part of a Maundy Thursday service and meal at First Presbyterian Church in Glenwood Springs.
“We pretty much keep it the same as we did at the Riviera. The only difference is, we didn’t get the whole band. So there won’t be a guitar and drum set,” Gorst said.
“That’s probably not a bad thing for being in a sanctuary,” he added.