Ted Neeley and His Little Big Band, PlayhouseSquare, Jesus Christ Superstar
From JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR to DJANGO, Ted Neeley is set to perform his concert, featuring Broadway hits and insider stories, March 23 at PlayhouseSquare.
"He's just a man... he's just a man..." Try telling that to Oscar-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. On a winter day in early 2012, Ted Neeley sat in an idling car at an imposing security gate waiting for a response from the large house above; he had been summoned out of the blue by Tarantino, ostensibly for some as-yet-unnamed film project. As the gate slowly opened, a figure appeared at the top of the driveway. Arms splayed wide, the call of "Jeeeeeeeeezusssssssssss" found Tarantino--manically animated as ever-sweeping down and scooping up Ted in a big bear hug.
"I used to play you in my bedroom as a kid!" Quentin admitted as the two men regarded each other. Tarantino, ever the lover of all things "movie" (particularly fringe and kitsch), had such a high regard for both the film Jesus Christ Superstar and Ted as Jesus, that he wanted to include Neeley in his latest film, the spaghetti western-cum-southern-gothic-slave romp, Django Unchained. How could Ted say no?
Ted was beginning another chapter in his career. His first performances in Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway and in LA (the first show ever at the Universal Amphitheatre), were followed by a series of misses and near misses that led to Neeley's casting in the 1973 film of Superstar, leading to a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Actor in a Musical and one for Newcomer of the year. (Just another of those overnight successes that are many years in the making!) A few films followed, an album, TV appearances; Ted composed for several films and worked in the studio with various artists.
And then again came the divine light; several regional reprises of the Superstar role led to a large-scale revival of the show that reunited Ted and his erstwhile Judas, Carl Anderson. That tour lasted from early 1992 until 1997. Other versions followed...so much so that it led to the quip that Ted had been Jesus longer than Jesus had been Jesus and that, perhaps, Ted might want to consider a re-imagining of the show as "Moses Christ Superstar".
Ted, however, is eternally-almost preternaturally--young, But no world-weariness for Ted; he's too busy with the present. His new show features highlights of his musical and professional history, lore and back-stories mostly untold, and music from his new CD that combines the rangy Texas dust of his youth with the nuances of a world wanderer. (Ted Neeley and his Little Big Band performs at PlayhouseSquare's intimate Ohio Theatre Sat., March 23 at 8 pm. Tickets are $50, $40, $35 & $25 at 216-241-6000 or at playhousesquare.org.)