In Telluride: Jesus Christ Superstar
If Andrew Lloyd Webber’s recent string of less-than-successes has made him, as Time theater critic Richard Zoglin recently put it, “a Broadway punchline,” there was a time when the British composer was writing the most innovative musicals on Broadway. Jesus Christ Superstar was one of them. Along with lyricist Tim Rice, Lloyd Webber “virtually invented the rock opera with Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970,” Zoglin wrote on the occasion of the musical’s successful revival on Broadway last year. “The first thing to notice is how fresh, audacious and vibrantly alive the music still is,” Zoglin noted. Even four decades on, the show “still sounds like nothing else. The screeching guitar riffs, jagged rhythms and wailing intensity of Superstar’s rock score…next to [it], almost any Broadway score today sounds like kids’ stuff.”
In Telluride, the score really is kids’ stuff: this Friday through Sunday, the R-1 District Middle School and High School will be performing Jesus Christ Superstar under the direction of drama teacher Angela Watkins. The musical, based loosely on the final week of Jesus’ life, has been controversial for its depiction of Jesus as a man, not necessarily a Messiah (as lyricist Rice explained, “It happens that we don’t see Christ as God, but simply the right man at the right time in the right place”). Watkins admits the timing of her production, which will be at the Palm Theatre, is a tad uncanny. “We didn’t plan for it to show at exactly this time when we decided to do it last year,” she said. The Palm is a busy place. When Watkins learned Superstar got the Easter weekend slot, she thought, “Oh, man, that might not be good. But we couldn’t change the dates.”
You might think performing Superstar was originally Watkins’ idea. It was not. That was High School Principal Michael Conran’s suggestion. The principal also plays drums in the orchestra pit (School Superintendent Kyle Schumacher is in the orchestra, too). Even with expert help (Schumacher and Conran, enthusiastic supporters of the arts, are also accomplished musicians), the production “has been a huge challenge,” Watkins said. The musical, the first “rock opera,” is entirely sung. “It’s difficult singing,” Watkins said. “Webber likes to mess with different key changes. The score is quintessential rock and roll of that era, and there’s a lot of eerie-sounding chording.” Then there is the subject matter, “both dramatic and traumatic.” Superstar ends with a death. The crowd chants, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” and “I tell them, ‘You can’t fake it,’” Watkins said. “‘It can’t be halfway. This is your job as actors.’” The darkness and the difficulty of the material aren’t lost on Watkins’ young thespians. “This is a lot different from Seussical or Annie or Into the Woods” (all of which she has directed), their teacher said. “I think a lot of them are going, ‘Why can’t we be doing Annie Get Your Gun?’ I say, ‘We’ll have that. But right now, it’s good to stretch yourself.’ Some of the kids love it, others hate it, but they’re all in there doing it. It’s great, honest, beautiful work.” Jesus Christ Superstar plays Friday and Saturday, March 29-30, at 7 p.m., and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $15 ($10 for students), available at the door of the Palm, and at the Intermediate School Office inside the theater, weekdays until 3:30 p.m.
In Montrose: Dinosaurs Lived Here
When you think of where dinosaurs lived in the western U.S., you probably don’t imagine the fearsome reptiles stalking this region in particular, given how many have been found in other parts of Colorado, and in Wyoming and Montana. Utah even has a dinosaur named for it. (Fun fact: the full name of Utahraptor was originally going to be Utahraptor Spielbergi, in exchange for paleontological funding from the film director Steven Spielberg, but an agreement could never be reached on the extent of his financial assistance.)
Yet carnivorous dinosaurs of the Theropod family, of which T. Rex is probably the most famous member, were all over this region. So were peaceful herbivores like Diplodocus (at up to 177 feet, one of the longest animals ever to walk the earth), Apatosaurus, better known as Brontosaurus, and Stegosaurus, studded with tail spikes and spiny plates – all Theropod snacks. This area is part of the Morrison Formation, a type of late Jurassic sedimentary rock known for yielding some of the richest dinosaur fossils in this country. Who knows what they’d find if they could dig it all up? Seventy-five percent of the Morrison Formation remains underground, buried beneath the Eastern Plains.
On Tuesday, April 2, at the Montrose Library, Bureau of Land Management Archaeologist Glade Hadden will give a presentation on the Morrison Formation and its numerous extinct residents, all found in this area. Hadden is known for being a good speaker, and he will have a lot to say. “The Uncompahgre Plateau,” said John Foster, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Western Colorado, “has one of the densest concentrations of dinosaurs in the Western U.S.” This event is free. Food will be available at 5:15 p.m. The presentation begins at 5:30.
TFF Cinematheque: The Undead
On Monday, a lengthy, glorious survey of horror films across the decades comes to an end, with the final presentation from TFF Cinematheque’s ‘Undead’ series at the Wilkinson Library. Each month, the setting of these films has crept closer to the present, and Monday’s feature was made in 2008. It’s Let the Right One In, a “spectrally beautiful” vampire movie, in the words of New York Times critic Manhola Dragis. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3-½ stars.
The film tells the story of Oskar, the only son of divorced, emotionally chilly parents who is teased at school, and his strange new friend, Eli. As you might expect, there are morbid moments in this movie. Director Tomas Alfredson “takes the morbid unhappiness of his young characters seriously” as well, Dragis writes. “Both are achingly alone, and it is the ordinary fact of their loneliness rather than their extraordinary circumstances that makes the film more than the sum of its chills and estimable technique.” Parents take note: even though it’s being shown at the library, the Right One is rated R. Its subject may be children, but this film is not for them. The Wilkinson will offer food and beverages beginning at 5:15 p.m. Let the Right One In screens at 5:30 p.m.