The film opens with youthful city dwellers from various walks of life dropping their activities to follow John the Baptist (David Haskell from the original New York production). They sing ("Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord") as he leads them into a fountain where they are (metaphorically) baptized. There they meet Jesus (Victor Garber). Frizzy hair and mime makeup aside, the handsome young Garber (Titanic, Annie) is convincing in his film debut. Once baptized, they follow him around various scenic New York locations, singing and acting out passages from the Scriptures.
The largely unknown cast is talented and charismatic, but the film is only fitfully engaging on an emotional level because only Jesus, John, and Judas (Haskell again) emerge as distinct characters. Stephen Schwartz's pleasing pop-rock score, however, helps to smooth over the rough spots, and Robin Lamont's hit version of "Day by Day" remains a highlight. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
The energetic, gifted ensemble have a wide range of talents, and though this film did not propel any of them to stardom, some have had good careers (mostly with TV work) since this film was released in 1973, especially Victor Garber, who is so marvelous as Jesus, with his lovely, sweet tenor voice and angular movements, Lynne Thigpen, the effervescent bundle of joy who sings "O Bless the Lord My Soul", and the very funny Jerry Sroka.
As a group, they are all equally strong in their vocal, dance, and comedic skills, and are a large part of why this film works so well.
The Last Supper scene is a great piece of staging, and I especially like the added touch of blessing the bread and wine in Hebrew, and the subtle, though gripping handling of the darker portions towards the end keeps this an excellent family film, as even very young children will enjoy the slapstick humor and clever costumes.
This film is one of the best stage to screen adaptations, and is a jubilant celebration of life and God's love.
I put this movie in my DVD player fully intending to have it play in the background while I cleaned house, but I soon found myself drawn into the story and the songs. Read more