The reason I got this new DVD of JCS, is that i've never seen the play performed live, and this would get me closer to it than the 1973 movie version. Well, sort of. First of all, it's not neccesarily a faithfull live performance. The work of cameras, the edition, the need of presenting it "like a movie", take a little of that notion. And second, this is just another adaptation of the live play. Not the first, nor the last.
Is it ejoyable for those who only know the '73 movie?. Well, I kinda liked it. My guess is that if you love the play, you'll like this DVD, because it's all about the songs and the play. But certainly, I cannot say that, as a whole, this DVD is better than the old movie.
The "modernized" enviroment is intended, I guess, to give the play an "updated" feeling. JCS for the new generations. But the street looks of the stage, the grafittis, the Nazi/Darth Vader-like costumes of the authorities and guards, and other elements, compromise compatibility. I mean, the message of Jesus Christ is universal, but the time and place in which events took place were unique. More than updated, the historical facts look out of place.
OK, maybe it's just a false impression. Some would argue that the '73 movie version had the same flaws, with, among other things, roman guards in jeans and construction helmets. But since the movie was filmed in locations close to the originals in place and looks, details like modern costumes were easier to overlook.
Regarding the voices, most of the singers are wonderful. I was specially impressed by Tony Vincent (Simon), Fred Johanson (Pilate) (by the way, he sounds so much like the judge in The Trial, in Pink Floyd's The Wall), and Renee Castle (Mary Magdalene). But the leads...Jerome Pradon (Judas) has a good voice, but the problem is the way he sings. Too many breaks in his singing becomes anoying. And the scene of Judas' final moments is awful. He choses to be somewhere between singing and screaming, with poor results. It's a shame, because in some parts he shows that he has a great range and powerful voice, but he just choses not to use all of this potential most of the times. And he shares another problem with Glen Carter (Jesus). They rather did the high notes of the songs with an elevated soft voice, not a powerful one. That produces changes in the key of the songs that are not pleasant. And they share another problem: sometimes, they look unconfortable in front of the camera. Check for instance the Gethsemani scene. Finally I was completely disappointed with Rik Mayall's voice (Herod).
Ok, I know I'm making an unfair judgement. After all, the singing in the '73 movie version was pre-recorded, and all the actors did was to lip-synch, and sure, they chose the better takes, so the margin of error was absent. But then again, I'm talking about things that will be noticeble by those who are "used" to that old version.
But of course, not all is bad. The handling of lights and cameras is excellent. And a couple of scenes are very powerful and impressive, not only in performance, but also in a cinematic sense: the trial before Pilate, and the crucifixtion (the problem is that they are interrupted by the "Superstar" song performance, in which Judas and dancing exotic girls are singing around Jesus carrying the cross, a scene that is somewhat shocking and was "softened" in the '73 version).
In conclusion, if you are a fan of the old movie, and want to see or get this DVD, think of it as an alternate version, but not necessarily "better".