Monday, September 15, 2003

Turn back, oh man...

Okay, kids, listen up. I have found one of the coolest things to come out of Christian music/theatre/musical theatre in a long time.

Most of you recognized the title, because you are familiar with the work of absolute beauty known as Godspell.

Some of you may ask, where is the Godspell of our generation? A work of theatre that is both cool and evangelical. The rock opera of our time.

It's called !Hero.

Over two years, Eddie Degarmo (of old-school Degarmo and Key), Pete Stewart, and Bob Farrell have worked on a modern retelling of the life of Christ, set in near-future New York. New York is now under the control of the global government ICON (read: Roman Empire).

In this retelling, Jesus (called "Hero" by most of the characters) was born in Bethlehem, PA, but was moved by his parents to Brooklyn when he was young. He grows up and then begins his earthly ministry, walking through the five boroughs and performing miracles, before he is railroaded and killed by the angry mob, under the authority of Govenor Pilate and chief priest Kai.

At this point, some of you are thinking, "This has been done so many times. Do we need another Godspell?" And if this were a rip-off of that goodness, I'd agree that it was overkill.

But !Hero is not Godspell. Here's why:
--Godspell's focus was on Jesus's relationship with his disciples; !Hero's is on his interaction with the people as a whole.
--Godspell was based mainly on Matthew, !Hero on John.
--Godspell went through Jesus' parables; !Hero focuses on his miracles and verbal exchanges with the powers that were.

There are similarities. Philosophically, they both connect Jesus to the present, as a relevant teacher and philosopher. !Hero presents a more evangelical version.

And the really cool part (or at least, I think so): All the roles are played by current Christian musicians.

Peter is voiced by Mark Stuart, the lead for Audio A. Mary Magdelene (called Maggie) is Rebecca St. James. And the casting I love best, Hero himself, is played by Michael Tait of DC Talk.

Something about casting Jesus as a black man sounds so right to me. I don't know why. Obviously, Jesus was Jewish, yes, but in this WORK OF PRESENTATIONAL ART, Jesus being black feels more authentic that Jesus as a white guy. Don't know why.

Guest spots to note: GRITS is part of the wedding at Cana section; and (in my favorite track) T-Bone, as Jairus, pleads with Hero to raise his daughter from the dead, in the track "Raised in Harlem." There are several other great cameos.

So, now that I've hopefully whetted your curiosity, here are the details. The two-disc album (released in a really well-designed cardstock flipcase) is available now. And in November, Tait, St. James, and Stuart are all going on the road together with a touring version of the show. I'm so psyched. They'll be in Houston on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Woo-woo!

As a final note, I am not part of any "street team" or publicity group for this album. I just loved it that much. I made a tape copy to play in my truck driving to and from the Med Center.

And I figured there would be at least a couple of you lovely readers who would be interested.

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