JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR AND MIKE’S TEMPLE OF DOOM


It’s funny what triggers memories.

I recently began listening to my old record albums after finally finding a place to get a new stylus for my 25-year old turntable. Anyway, one of the albums (actually a double-album) is the rock opera from 1970 “Jesus Christ Superstar.” A concept album that spawned a Broadway show and a film. Great stuff, of course, but it suddenly threw my mind back to 1984 when I performed in the show in the show-stopper role of Herod.

Now it should be noted that I cannot sing and I cannot dance. Not to save my life. And yet I’ve done three musicals. I was once told to put “singing” on my acting resume, because “everyone can sing.” I decided against lying on my resume and advise anyone else the same. Not everyone can

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sing, trust me! Nevertheless, I never let it keep me from a role…

First of all, an actor wants to act. You never know what you can do until you try. And you never know what role will change you forever…
When I arrived at the Fort Ord Cabaret Theater in 1983 I had for two years been learning the ropes in Army community theaters. I played leading roles right from the start. I also acquired lousy reviews from the start, such as “not a show standout” and “struggling vocal performance” and “crooning a song… purposely embarrassingly.” (Sadly, not on purpose at all…)
Undeterred, but a bit beaten down, I arrived at the Cabaret Theater to audition for “The Cruficer of Blood.” Thankfully, it was not a musical. When I arrived I was greeted by a mop-headed man with a thick beard in blue jeans and flannel shirt. I assumed he was the man who cleaned up around the place… To my surprise this rumpled fellow was Michael Cheak, the man who was the artistic director and creative force behind the Cabaret Theater. He did not inspire confidence in me, a young man sorely in need of some… But, as I said, an actor wants to act, so I stayed and read for the play. I scored a major role (nothing new for me) and my first good acting review (which was a first for me!). In fact, the phrase “excellent acting” immediately preceded my name.
From now on I vowed to do whatever the rumpled mop-headed fellow with the beard said!
My third and final show for Michael Cheak was “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I was mortified. This is not just a little acting and singing and dancing, folks, this is a ROCK OPERA. Michael had plans for me, if I trusted him. Good question. I would be leaving my recently achieved comfort zone and risking public ridicule. Michael cast me as Herod. I had one scene and one song–but it was a show-stopping number called “Herod’s Song.” I didn’t want it to be show-stopping in the negative sense! I would have to sing and I would have to dance… and I would have to carry a fully grown dog through the audience as I exited (don’t ask). My costume was black boots, a satin black cape and black bikini briefs with gold studs on it. That was it. I kid you not! Now singing and dancing were the least of my fears! Again Michael Cheak said “trust me, you’re better than you think.”
And so I went on with the show. We even did a couple of outdoor mini-concerts to publicize the play. The photo above is me singing “Herod’s Song” with my two lovely attendants (in the show they wore sexy corsets).
It was this role that got me my very favorite review of all-time, citing my “diabolically sensual performance… enhanced by a repellently depraved costume.” You truly had to see it to believe it!
After this, I never feared another role or artistic challenge again. Michael Cheak saved my acting ego and forged in me an artist that never looked back again. He held a belief that only I could do the role the way he envisioned it… or, perhaps, I was the only one who would wear the depraved costume…
I’m just saying…