Forty years ago, I was a 26 year old Navy veteran going to school on the GI Bill at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey CA. I had started my classes at MPC in 1974 and I was taking mostly theatre courses hoping to someday have a career in that field. I had already been in a few “main stage” shows and had also done quite a bit of scene work in my classes. Also, I had just begun to get my feet wet directing scenes and short plays.
The MPC theatre department had a summer program during which they scheduled an extended run of a popular show. The year before, in the summer of ’74, the show had been Hair. It was actually a restaging of the production of Hair which had been our very successful spring show earlier that year. I had a small part, George, and I enjoyed working on an expanded schedule for the first time. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun and we sold a bunch of tickets – 18 sellouts in the spring and an equal number in the summer, in a 350 seat theatre.
The word had gotten out that for the summer of ‘75 the department was planning something very special. We soon learned that we would be staging three different productions in repertory for the Monterey Theatre Festival. When the schedule was announced the shows were Charley’s Aunt, Gypsy and Jesus Christ Superstar. As you might imagine the excitement in our college theatre community was at a high point.
So, auditions were held, the roles were assigned and I was lucky enough to be cast as Sir Francis Chesney in Charley’s Aunt, Grandpa in Gypsy (I was also in charge of the scene change crew) and, after a rigorous audition process, Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar. (It didn’t hurt that I had long hair past my shoulders and showed promise for hitting “the note” – A above high C in “Gethsemane”) That bit of luck was made all the more exciting when my very good friend Michael King got the role that he sought, Judas. The third important role of Mary Magdalene went to a young lady from the music department who had an amazing voice, Charmaigne Scott.
The summer played out well and it was a huge success. All three shows filled the seats – it seemed everyone wanted to see Superstar. Remember, the “rock opera” had begun as a concept album in 1970 and had hit Broadway in 1971. The film version was not until 1973. We were one of the first theatres on the west coast to produce it.
The experience of that summer was truly an amazing one for me. Working on three shows at once was grueling at times, but most of my memories are of great friends, great shows and great times.
After the shows closed, there was a call for the cast of Superstar to do a recording session. Two microphones on stage, the full orchestra in the pit and an ‘engineer’ in the booth was the best we could do back in 1975 and the entire show was recorded (with our very tired voices) onto a reel to reel ¼ inch tape. (All the songs were done in single takes – so there are some few vocal mishaps that are included.) I never knew how many of those tapes existed. As far as I can tell there was only one. Somehow, I am really not certain how, I wound up with that recording and I kept it with me through 40 years of marriages and moves. For the past 20 years it’s been laying in a box in the rafters in our garage.
So – with the 40th anniversary of the opening of our Superstar coming up on August 5th 2015, I pondered what to do with this personal artifact. It was such an outdated media format, I wasn’t sure if it would be of any use, or indeed if any quality of sound survived on it. On a whim, I started a conversation about it with a friend of mine, Dennis Forkel, here in Indianapolis. Dennis is an audio/video aficionado and collector. He has old 33 1/3 albums and the equipment to play them on, and that’s not the half of his collection of stuff.
So looking for advice, I told Dennis about my reel-to-reel dilemma and as luck would have it, he had the capabilities to transfer the sound from this old knocked-about tape to a digital format, CDs. (Unbelievably, we found that on the reverse side of the tape, there was a recording of our 1974 production of HAIR!!)
And so, with many thanks to Dennis, it has been accomplished. And now I am ready to share these vintage, college-age performances with my friends. Mostly the significance of these recordings lies in their age (they are a bit of an audio time capsule), and the memories they bring for those who were a part of this long ago summer show, and possibly some enjoyment for some of you who merely like the show.
I’ll not include all the cuts. I will try to select the best of them and hope that will suffice to give a good sampling of what we did 40 years ago in the summer of 1975.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
MUSIC by ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER
LYRICS by TIM RICE
Directed by Morgan Stock – Musical Direction by Barney Hulse
Heaven on Their Minds: Here is Michael Carlton King as Judas (Note: Michael is a professional singer, performing in clubs and restaurants in the Atlanta GA area).
On YouTube: http://youtu.be/4ZknVwsVffQ
Strange Thing Mystifying: Michael as Judas and you will hear me as Jesus in this cut.
On YouTube: http://youtu.be/VGW2LYupcqA
Everything’s Alright: Michael and I are joined by Charmaigne Scott as Mary Magdalene (Note: Charmaigne is a performer in the central California area)
On YouTube: http://youtu.be/rclH-bRcDow
This Jesus Must Die: Here we have Lawrence Martin singing the deep-voiced Caiaphas, and Bruce Roberts as Annas.
On YouTube: http://youtu.be/ESrhbrwp2iI
Hosanna: Lawrence Martin and the JCS chorus join me on this rousing number.
On YouTube: http://youtu.be/yHrenn2uoMk
Simon Zealotes: Here the late Steve Barnes sings the part of Simon along with the great JCS chorus – you should have seen Akemi Ito’s wild choreography! This is one I wish I had a video of so I could share it.
On YouTube: http://youtu.be/_dXA4FeD7bs
Poor Jerusalem: One of my favorite songs from the show – soft, sweet and meaningful.
On YouTube: http://youtu.be/5vbryMGv8TM
Pilate’s Dream: We were so lucky to have Joel Fleischer in the role of Pontius Pilate.
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/GnowL93Kkjk
I Don’t Know How to Love Him: Charmaigne Scott’s lovely rendition of this signature song somehow wasn’t available on the tape. I have no idea why that is so – but it is sad to miss what I thought was the best singing in the entire show.
So we move on to…
Damned For All Time/Blood Money: Martin, Roberts and King knock this one out of the park.
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/68_-HAzaPVQ
The Last Supper: This number began the second act and featured a typically iconic visual arrangement borrowed from the Da Vinci masterpiece.
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/C2WzdrKFjM4
Gethsemane: My big solo. I couldn’t make it to the A above high C with my ragged voice that day, but I think it still might be mostly okay…
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/N8G303dB0Ro
Michael C. King as Judas betrays with a kiss.
Pilate and Christ/King Herod’s Song: Joel Fleischer is amazing in the first portion of this piece as Pilate. And my good friend Don Porter, whom I have completely lost track of, takes the role of the flamboyant King Herod in the conclusion of the number.
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/J7XIvLMLHmU
Don Porter as King Herod in a publicity photo with me as JCS.
Could We Start Again Please: Charmaigne Scott’s beautiful voice is fully featured in this cut. Buzz Curry as Peter joins in.
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/1vhJ2mUYWZU
Judas’ Death: Michael’s dramatic exit song, with Bruce Roberts and Lawrence Martin.
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/hzs0CL3pAkA
Superstar: Michael C. King and the three Soul Girls – Linda Sparks, Vicki White and Latanya Wilson rock it out
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/Xu5d8PqJb0I
John 19:41: This closing piece features our musical director Barney Hulse, still very active in the music world, as he leads the 30 piece orchestra which was so solid throughout the show’s run. I’ve also added show credits…
on YouTube: http://youtu.be/xdz4B_2V0Bo
Behind the scenes: June Carnegie fits me into my Jesus costume
I just found this in my files. The review from The Monterey Peninsula Herald – 8/6/75