Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - May 18, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
Thursday, May 18, 1972 THE IETHBRIDG1 HERAID S Peter Hall 'Jesus Christ Superstar' heard and seen o N both side of the Atlantic, tycoons of the entertain- ment industry are more than usually puzzled about what Ihe public wants. But "Codspell" is a success in both London and New York, Pasolim's screen Gospels are in vogue, and screams of triumph for "Jesus Christ Superstar" tin Broadway were quickly audible i" En- gland. Is there a significant trend? One eminent British showman recently thought so. "There you arc." he said lo me. "All the old names are coming back." "Jesus Christ Superslar" is already a classic of the seven- ties _ an event which will de- scribe our dccsde io tlie fu- ture. II began life as a record, as befits an electronic age. Its words are the language of the pop scene, understood by the young of Ihe Western world, and a good many of the bast as weD! Its American produc- tion is a monument lo the taste of Broadway I'JTO, and a ghast- ly one, too. Its subject-matter brings back into the theatre the ultimate tabco: Cod. In recent yc.irs Hie thcr.lre has dealt with drugs, violence, nakedness: there arc not many shocks left. Btosnhemy is n longer a powerful taboo, but it exisls none the less. V.'e have all been conditioned by long childhoods of religious instruc- tion. Even to non-believers, even to the predominantly Jew- ish audience of TCW York, it is Blimulaling lo listen to the life of Christ presented c.s if he was a misundersloo'l pT sisr- T'18 theatre must alwais question our taboos. Only then uo we know if they are nccewary and truthful. "Jesus Christ Super- star" delivers a pleasurable shock. Unfortunately, it does not ask any questions. I first heard cf the work in November 1970, when the rec- ord was provoldngly reviewed by Clive James in The Listener. It was called a Rod; Opera. An- drew Lloyd-Webber, the. com- poser, was then After a flirtation with history at Magdalen College, Oxford, he had gone to the Royal Col- lege of Music. The rock idiom is so powerful, such a lingua franca for the world, that il was exciting to find n serious young musician attempting to give new life to opera by appropriat- ing Hie mainstream lo his own use. The record was very dramat ic, not because of its text, but because ol its sounds. It was alive with howling guitars and I ho infinite variety of the Moog Synthesizer. It only disappoint- ed when it switched to conven- tional orchestration. There were tooling biblical trumpets fit for Cecil de Millc; and liquid harps and violins, as if a pupil of Faure bad ended in the paradise of Hollywood. The movie-score influence was a pervasive and derivative part of the work: atmospheric but banal. Yet the attempt was so good that I resented the fact that it was not b e 11 e r. The thematic material was possibly insufficient to carry a work of this length. But the characters were singing because they had to express emotion. There was Book Review a need lo sing. This is the last consideration in many a mod- ern opera; speech could do the better and quicker. Tim llice's libretto was less adventurous. He was educated at Lancing College, Sussex, and the Sorbonnc. After a pe- riod as a petrol-pump atten- dant, he ended up as a record producer with E11I. It is an im- peccable biography for a laic twentieth-century b a r d. His words are very singable: they need music. He and A n d r e w Lloyd-Webber pet through a great deal of text. The verbal pace is wonderfully fast and flexible far more so than the musical pace. The piece assumes knowledge of the story; but as Christ and his crucifixion is one cf the few potent myths left lo the Wcrt, tliis is a fair risk. The odd tiling is that the authors have taken one of the world's most drama- tic stories and turned it into something passive and undra- malic. They have written un oratorio, not an opera. It is a comment on what we know happened. It is not happening now, as we watch it in the the- atre. Plays on marriage "Solilairc-Douhlc Solitaire" by Robert Anderson (lian- dom House of Canada Limit- ed, hard cover, S2.35 pa- per. 85 QOUTASRF, DOUBLE Soli- taire is an interesting commentary on marriage. The first of the two plays has a 1354 type of setting. The story Likes place in a push button Servocell which has a button for almost everything including dcrth. The main character Samuel Thomas Bradley 1783.065.281 Stroke GA IQSQC 240, who-e wife self-dispnral early in "The System" is feel- ing particularly nostalgic for Ihe "old and the family as know it now. He goes through a rent-a-family deal and eventually goes back to his little cell and pushes the early button. The second play has a con- temporary selling. A couple is coming up to their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and things just aren'l going well. A suggestion that they renew their vows brings them around lo reminiscing about their early days of marriage and their promises to rever come to the spot they're in now. It's a fascinating but simple study. Well worth reading. JUDI WALKER Judas begins the piece. He re- veals himself immediately as a twentieth-century neurotic, anx- iour, not to b a c k the wrong horse. His Jes'js Christ is a primitive a naive talent, like many an undiscovered pop star. It is not clear what his talent accomplishes. Bui he is a hit and therefore vulnerable Once the establishment rec ognizes him, they will break Km particularly if he be- lieves his own publicity. His story is (old consistently in the vocabulary of the pop in terms of success, making it, adulation. Christ has no point of view, political, social or human, to communicate. He expresses a generalized love, a generalized concern. He seems to be vague- ly revolutionary; he is, of course, against the capitalists in Ihe temple. But, primarily, he is the passive recipient of the vagaries of reputation. He is a Super Star, but not much else. He represents the martyr- dom of a young hero of our lime, broken by those who fear his success, end the power that it gives him. He is a cliche. The end is pathetic, not tragic: a puny crucifixion, accompanied by weeping strings. It is tempting to play the tidy critic and make patterns. The genesis of the work should be the Jesus cult of California. The young have seen many of their folk heroes die of dope, or bo destroyed by the frenzy of Iheir own success. The Haight- Asbury vision ended in the Manam murders. Have they turned to a new Jesus because the hippy doctrine of universal love seemed to lead to nolhing but doslruclion? Possibly. And the overwhelming success of the record of "Josus Christ Superstar" in America is no doubt a reflection of this new trendy Jesus. The world-wide sales of Ihe record which preceded Ihe stage make it the biggest-selling British LP of all lime. Throughout 1971 the rec- Welcome to the best In beer Weicomc lo Iho quality of Heidelberg, Heidelberg is brewed from only the best ingredients the finest golden barley malt, the choicest high prime Hallertau hops from Bavaria, and pure spring water. Welcome to the tasta of Heidelberg. So bright, so lively, so brimful of flavour it brings more enjoyment to your drinking pleasure. Take your thirst to Heidelberg today for a happy welcome that will never wear out because every 9lass is as crisp and satisfying as your flrsl- Welcome to Heidelberg. When you're looking for the best. Welcome to Heidelberg THE CARLING BREWERIES LTD. ord grew in popularity in Am- erica. It was performed in con- cert halls as a dramatic ora- torio by touring groups. The success sensational. The Super Star made tracks for Broadway. The show is a significant de- velopment in the Broadway thealre. Musicals have an insoluble problem: the book is always an embarrassment. How can you get over tedious establishing dialogue, when all you want to do is sing? The normal solution is to reduce the dialogue to cartoon simplicity and hurry it through. If the sit- uation is ever worthy of good writing, then it is worthy of a song. The book-writer always loses. There is no dialogue in "Jesus Christ Superslar." Ev- erything is sung. I find this marvellous. Lloyd-Webber can write recitative: conversation in music. Unfortunately, he does not do it often enough. He is well equipped lo remove the false division between popular opera and popular musical. They can and must again be the same thing, whatever the billing says. The production on Broadway was based on something known to millions the L.P. It is important lo stress this be- cause Hie stage had to be the servant of the record. The pro- duction could not be made in the normal way, by cutting, ad- justing and trying various sol- utions. The result was already well known, and anv deviation would offend the fans. Pictures of Christ the Super- star brandishing a microphone have appeared all over tho world. Much has been written about his handmike trailing yards of cable bound with hcs- sian rope. The antique effect is comical. It is a mad conven- tion, because the characters of- fer the mikes to each other when they seek a reply. This helpful gesture obscures the fact that they usually hale eacli other. The microphones are needed to make a sound which exceeds the intensity of the record. The live performance had to repro- duce the record meticulously, and yet be bigger, louder and better. It could properly be said that the performance is not "live" at all. The musicians are sealed off in the pit. as if they were in a recording studio. The sound comes from a vast array of loud-speakers, and varies from treble forte to treble forte. The effect is startling: I did not bear one word from start to finish of the evening. The noise was too great. The singers might have been hidden in the orchestra pit too, while on the stage actors mimed to (he din. I would not have known. It was impossible to tell if the au- dience was "held" or not. Wo were insulated from each other by noise. Noise is an addiction in our time. And perhaps (he sound cf "Jesus Christ Superslar" in the theatre had to be created to grab tlie deafened genera- tion. It has serious conse- quences. Unless the lyrics and the music are very well known from the records, it is impos- sible to understand what is go- ing on. The effect tops the rec- ord in volume, but totally ob- scures its meaning. Coming out on to the roar of Broadway late at night, my ears were grate- ful. It seemed like the peace of Ihe country. The whole production is kitsch. The colors belong to Disney and the props to Dali. It was unhealthy, erotic, and nightmarish. As a visual style, I thought this appropriate for the beastly but it is odd to find its underbelly dank- ness illustrating the story of a naive youth hero. Nor did I understand why Christ was a wet WASP blond, wliile Judas was black. In Lon- don I would have thought such casting would have provoked a report to the Dace lielalions Board. I was tolci in New York that Ihey have passed beyond such thinking. People are peo- ple, no matter what their color, and the audience don't think of Judas as black and Jesus as white. It is their characters thai matter. I hope their op- timism is justified. Christ as n popular hero has been familiar to the drama .since the Middle Ages. But Jesus Christ Superstar" says nothing about Christ and noth- ing for or against religion. Its sentimcnl.s are finally as un- exceptionable as Ihe passion play at Obt'i'ammcrgau. One is respectable nineteenth-century religion, thn uUirr respectivhlo Uventielh ronlury revolution, liolli to live up In the sub- jix'l: bolh are finally ronven- lional. Hul as an eniinenl cleric recently Miggcslcd, the story is too complex lo bo simple, even in the interests of popularity. ''You he s.iid, "Jesus Chrirl not a super star." (vYi-illon for The Horald and The Observer, Ixindon) Dictators not desirable Hv I'-va Urcwstcr Weary and footsore, our kills are walking the streets. In Lcth- bridge recently, I met scores of them. Pale, shoulders sagging, they did not lirt their faces to the glorious spring sunshine. Their eyes were fixed on the horizon and their horizon was the next shop, the next office upstairs. It was afternoon and most of them hail trudged from store to store since early morning looking for a job. They managed a glimmer of a smile when T induced them to take a break and invited them for a coke. "Only if you let us treat they said valiantly even although I suspected they were proposing to spend their last SO cents. Tile story, with only slight variations was the same: Just out of college or uni- versity, loan or allowance spent, a long, lean summer to look forward to and no job in sight. The college kids, who were told last year the job situation for them would be better than for university grad- uates, now heard they would do better !o get a university degree. The university stu- dent1; were given to understand their long and costly training did not guarantee em- ployment but had been designed to merely broaden their education. "Did you see that film about Mussolini on one student asked me, absent- mindedly slipping a few cubes of sugar from the lunch counter into his pocket. "You can say what you like, those dicta- tors had something. At least there was no unemployment when they were in power. I dig seeing the kids marching in those old films. They could hold their heads high.'' "In those added another, "self-sat- isfied fogies, like the ones now sifting in employment offices, v.ould have been lined up against a wall and shot had they treated their young as we are being treat- ed now. I have always hated the thought of dictatorship but I am beginning to re- vise my opinion and so are many of our friends. It looks like it is going to he the only way out of this mess.'1 Their remarks frightened me. 1 have heard these arguments before. In flash they brought back similar discussions I listened to as a child in Germany during and after the great depression and the subsequent prriod of high "It can't here." I heard my father say. "Germany i.s too civilized for dictator- ship and rabble rouscrs." He died a few year's later, when I was only fifteen, for lu's fight for justice and democracy. A teen-ager then, like the ones now look- ing at me so trustingly over their pop bot- lles. I too was trudging the streets. Only I was not looking for a job. I was search- ing for a hiding place out of reach of the long arm of Secret Police. In rain, for, being my father's daughter I was be- ing hunted down for his beliefs even after his death. Such is dictatorship. The kids of today listened to Tny story with the same fascination and excitement they watch a horror movie whDe out of the dim and distant past I heard the rythmic sound of marching feet and saw myself facing the firing squad on a bitter- ly cold February morning when I was barely twenty years old. By a quirk of fate sentences of execution was commuted to concentration camp. Of the thousand young prisoners of my transport only seven survived hopefully to prevent the now-gen- eration from falling into the trap of dicta- torship with its easy promises of full em- ployment and a Utopia that does not exist. "John and Ricky, it does not matter under the steamroller of a dictatorship whether you are the soldier aiming the gun or the victim facing it. In the end, full employ- ment policies of such a system benefits nobody." "Thanks for the said John as he and his friends got up. We better go on looking for that elusive job. But believe me, another summer of unem- ployment like last year, something has got to brcr.k and in opinion, for whal il is v.ovlli, it is going to he the lislablishmcnt before me. Wish us luck." I do wish them luck, all those tired, dis- enchanted kids that now walk the roads of Canada searching for work. If we can- not help them in the midst of affluence we might be guilty of the same mistakes so often recorded in the history of nations. In tlie meantime we can only pray that our children will never have to experience a dictatorship with its only means of keep- ing up their pov.'er and bringing down op- firing squads. Political parties7 finances By Clandc Ryan, in Montreal Le Devoir AT a time when many rejoiced as its apparent stagnation, the Parti Que- becois has just demonstrated not only its vitality but that it will play an irre- placeable part in Quebec political life Several months ago. PQ Leader Rene Le- veque admitted frankly thit the party's finances were in a fairly rundown state The fact that the Parti Quebecois was able to collect a sum from its members which surpassed the objective by two or three times at least, is undeniable proof of the party's vitality Of all the parries Quebec has known since Confederation, the PQ is the only one lo have succeeded in financing itself through its members What is striking about the campaign Is not Ihe total amount collected, but the wide variety of sources the money came from and the means used to collect it. The brochure "Who finances the Parti Quebec- contains some interesting points. The money collected comes from indivi- duals, not groups or institutions: of Hie total no donation surpassed S50 and the average was most donations were in the form of monthly commit- ments. The party also released comprehensive figures allowing interesled persons to see how the money is being spent. It is necessary now to attack other as- pects of the problem..... In particular il is necessary to oblige every party to reveal its annual report, duly audited, to show its financial activities; to ob- lige every party to reveal Ihe names of supporters who have donaled more Ulan a certain sum, for example SI.000; encour- age participation of citizens in financing parties by allowing deductions on income tax up to, say, and forbid any public institution to make a political donation. uness it is authorized by shareholders at a meeting and mentioned in the annual re- port. a party to be in healthy condition, It must be able to finance itself, prin- cipally through its own members, End must not be afraid to reveal rts expen- ditures. Tlie Parti Quebecois passes ttese cri- teria. It suffices not only to emphasize this but to demand as much from the other parties. On th e use or words f Theodore Bernstein T IGHT on a bit of slang. It's not exact- ly a hip expression, but douse I b e glim is still in fairly common use. So. if it's not a hip expression, how recent is it? you believe it was recorded in 1785 in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Capt. Francis Grose? He de- fined it as meaning "put out the candle." He was defining it, of course, according to his lights. But changed and now it applies to anything from a match to a laser beam. gard the first one as the subject and make the verb conform lo it. Tile rule is rea- sonable since in normal English construc- tion the subject appears first and tlie pre- dicate second. Thus, both of the following sentences would be proper: "A city prob- lem is "Drugs are a city prob- lem." Wrong number. A New York City offi- cial was quoted as follows: "Drugs is a city problem, but it is also a Federal prob- lem." Apparently his mind was focused on problem, not on drags. Drugs is a plural noun, and a plural subject should lake a plural verb. Tlie difficulty here is not an uncommon one. When the verb is a link- ing, or copulative verb (such as forms of to be) a question sometimes arises as to whether the subject is the noun fore or the one aft. A good rule of thumb lo re- Word oddities. A two- faced word with belli a semi-agreeable and n meaning is cant. In its scmi-agrcosble sense it means the "in" language of a par- ticular profession or trade or guage understood, for the most part, only by fellow workers in a specialized area. In its disagreeable sense cant refers to the secret jargon of such people as beggars, thieves, peddlers and tramps, and to the hypocritical use of religious language. The word seems lo derive from the Old North French cant akin to the French clianl, meaning singing: it apparently was linked to the singsong whining of beggars. (Tlir Now York Timrsl Eating out Dy Dung W.ilkrr colleague Jop Balln stopped into my office after he read the paper tin- day there was a filler about KIspiMh sen- ing us a wire Iwistcr in the stow, "I hear you aren't going home for he said. I didn't immediately catch the implica- tion of the remark according lo my family I am normally dense and won- dered bow Joe knew 1 was planning to so club dinner at McKillop lo the men'? I'nileil Church doing lo the church was a wise decision I was served a splendid meal. Tlie ser- vers, all members of Elspelh's UCW unit, were very nice lo me, too. This proves thnl women don't dose r.ril.s automatically. O-i the o'hn- hand, mnylx1 Ihey hadn't had lime to read the paper.