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Jesus on Broadway

Singing is a great prayer amplifier, or as the sign in our choir room at church used to say: “He Who Sings Prays Twice.”

Hunter Parrish as Jesus in Godspell on Broadway
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What do you do if you find yourself sitting next to Jesus on Easter Sunday?

Jesus is making dual appearances on Broadway right now, eight performances a week, starring in two musicals, Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. On Easter night, after singing two Easter services at church, I figured it’d be nice to hear Jesus singing back to me so I took my sister-in-law Julie to see Godspell. I must have been buried under a rock when the show first came out in 1971 because I’ve never seen it.

But I knew the music. As I’ve said before, singing is a great prayer amplifier, or as the sign in our choir room at church used to say: “He Who Sings Prays Twice.” The hit song in Godspell, “Day by Day,” is adapted from an ancient prayer by Richard of Chichester:

To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.

A perfect prayer and even more fun to sing. The actress who did it, Anna Maria Perez de Tagle, has a terrific voice and I was clapping right along with her. (Hey, clapping can be prayer too; as the Psalmist said, “O clap your hands all ye people!”)

The actors ran up and down the aisles of the theater and interacted with the audience. At one moment I noticed Jesus, matinee-idol handsome Hunter Parrish, sitting in the aisle next to me. I wanted to tap him on the shoulder and ask, “What’s it like to be Jesus on Easter?” How does it feel knowing that the whole town is celebrating your Resurrection, from the hats in the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue to every kid carrying a basketful of eggs? Did he ever compare notes with the Jesus Christ Superstar Jesus?

He darted back up on stage, issuing one memorable line after another, largely because they were taken from the Bible, and at the end of the second act was crucified with red roses marking his wounds (a nice touch). But then he didn’t get resurrected, unless you count the bows at the end a resurrection. “It’s Easter,” I wanted to remind him. “You’re supposed to rise from the dead!”

Heading back to the subway, I decided the writers had done it that way to leave the message with us. How do we respond to Jesus? How do we spread this gospel/Godspell? Easter is unfinished until we help make it happen. No wonder the show starts out with John the Baptist singing, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” We’re always doing that, aren’t we?

P.S.: I noticed that Hunter Parrish’s bio says “Matthew 7:13.” Evidently his favorite Bible verse is “Go through the narrow gate …” An interesting choice for an actor playing on Broadway, where the broad gate is most producers’ goal. Maybe that’s what comes from playing Jesus eight times a week.

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