I am not afraid to admit that I am an Andrew Lloyd Webber fan. When I had the opportunity to buy tickets months and months ago to Jesus Christ Superstar coming to my area, I envisioned a great family experience of sharing my love of the music with my sons. I looked forward to the performance for a long time, and as it got closer, downloaded the music so the boys could listen to it before seeing the show.
Showtime! I eagerly led everyone to the third row center seats. Right up in front! The best place for kids to sit for a musical, I think, right where they are almost a part of the action.
It was right when the noose lowers down from the ceiling and Judas is singing his guts out about his torment in betraying Jesus that I realize what a big mistake I made in bringing my boys (and my friend visiting from out of town, and another friend and her daughter who took the extra tickets we had at the last minute because my oldest son got sick and my husband had to stay home with him) to this show that I saw once before but obviously didn’t realize would be so, well, really so inappropriate for a seven and nine year old.
Don’t get me wrong, the music and most of the singing was fantastic.
But seeing an African American man, playing Judas, sticking his head into a noose on stage mere feet away from our third row seats was not good. Not good. I tried to block the eyes of my seven year old. It shouldn’t have been hard, as he was sitting on my lap and had been since the second song. He fought me off though, like he was watching something he knew he shouldn’t see but had to watch.
Things continued on very intensely to the ultimate scene. Yes, Jesus nailed to the cross. Yes, mere feet away, we bore witness to a 60 year old man, playing Jesus, nearly naked, nailed to a huge cross, moaning, groaning, gasping, panting, struggling, calling for his mother, and truly suffering for what seemed to be at least 15 minutes. It was taking him forever to die. I was gripping the arm of my friend to my right, and ridiculously we got the giggles. Suppressing laughter at the situation I had put us in, I was straining so hard to hold in my emotions when my friend to my left whispered into my ear, “Wow he must do yoga!” I managed to keep it together but had tears streaming down my face. My seven year old was absolutely transfixed by the scene, and my legs were going numb with the weight of him on my lap for two hours. I couldn’t even begin to explain to him what was going on, so I kept whispering into his ear, “Just concentrate on the music and the singing. Just listen to the music.” My nine year old was two seats away from me, I couldn’t talk to him at all.
My boys were way too young for the graphic, violent, dark and complex story line. What was I thinking? What if they ask me about Mary Magdalene? Was this really the best way to introduce them to the story of the life of Jesus? You can’t get a more different viewpoint from the gentle hippy man wearing a dress and petting a lamb other kids learn about in Sunday school. This Jesus was scary, even to me. Especially so close up. Oh no, I’ve scarred them for life.
Leaving our row, my nine year old asked if he could check out the guitar player he caught a glimpse of in the orchestra pit. Glad for the diversion, we looked at the musicians, keyboards, electric guitars, and computers that produced all the wonderful music for the show. Walking out into the chilly afternoon, I was contemplating all the questions that were going to be asked of me in the following days. I was pretty sure none of them would be about the music.