Scene & Herd - A Rockstar is Born
Scene & Herdfeaturing the Reindeer Cow
Last Thursday night, I caught a stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the not usually so New Testament-y Five Spot in Little Five Points.
In case you haven't seen or heard of Jesus Christ Superstar, allow me to catch you up. The play depicts the last week or so of Jesus' life. It first appeared on Broadway in 1971 and was made into a feature film two years later.
What separates JCS from your run-of-the-mill Mel Gibson/Martin Scorsese/Monty Python dramatic depiction of the life of Christ is the music. JCS isn't a musical. It's a rock opera, meaning the entire story is told via the bombastic rock songs of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. How bombastic? Remember, Webber went on to compose the music for Evita, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera. Those titles are almost synonyms for bombast.
The rendition I witnessed the other night was the handiwork of the Little Five Points Rockstar Orchestra, a 32-person musical and vocal ensemble led by Rob Thompson. Thompson not only produced and directed the show, but he also starred in it as Judas, as well as playing guitar in the orchestra. Thompson also owns and works at Holy Mother Tattoo and is co-owner of the Little Five Points Corner Tavern. He is, in short, the single busiest man on Earth.
Thursday's performance was definitely more rock than opera. That was partly because the rock section of the orchestra was way louder than the string/horns/wind section of the orchestra. But it was also due to the play's stars being mostly local rock musicians.
Sporting countless tattoos and an authentically biblical PBR belt buckle, Rock City Dropouts singer Jett Bryant was Jesus. Atlanta rock scene fixture Shane Morton played both a disciple and King Herod. Caiaphas was played by Blackberry Smoke's Richard Turner. I would go on, but, like I said, there were 32 of them.
My favorite parts? I loved how Jesus wowed his disciples by doing that trick that makes it look like you're pulling your thumb apart. I loved how PBR was served at the Last Supper. I loved how Pontius Pilate (played superbly by Will Lewellyn) was depicted as a high-strung German bondage club patron. I loved how a good chunk of the audience mouthed every word.
But mostly, I loved the spirit of the show.
Despite some technical flaws, it was an obvious labor of love for everyone involved. Putting 32 actors and musicians in a small club to do a Webber musical is a money-losing enterprise. The play was staged because of the enthusiasm of the performers, and that spirit was evident throughout.
Not the Orwell kind: On Christmas Eve, I drove about an hour north of the city to Canton to visit one of my favorite places ever to be covered in this column, Tanglewood Farm.
Tanglewood Farm is a petting zoo populated by miniature animals. It's laid out like the wild West, minus the brothels, binge-drinking and random shootings. The excuse for my visit was Winterfest. Winterfest wasn't really a big to-do. It was actually just a Christmas-themed photo-op consisting of a sleigh hitched to a reindeer cow. Visitors were invited to sit on the sleigh, don Santa caps, and take souvenir photos.
I actually didn't pose for a photo because when I was standing by the sleigh, two of the farm's Manx cats were frolicking in its seat. They looked to be having a lot of fun and I didn't have the heart to shove them aside. By the way, a reindeer cow is a just regular cow with toy antlers placed on its head.
After hanging with the reindeer cow, I took the bucket of bread that you get upon admission and headed over to the sheep and goats for some quality feeding and petting time. Tanglewood is home to adorable fleets or miniature pygmy goats and miniature Shetland sheep. The goats don't get much higher than your shins and, even as adults, still have the lopey-dopeyness that makes baby animals so irresistible.
I'm not sure whether it was just a seasonal thing, but the goats seemed way more into ramming one another than they did last time I was there. You'd be trying to feed one of them then — bam! — another goat would barrel into him headfirst, knocking him into something. None of them seemed upset, though.
I can't overstate how fun it is to be standing in a yard with a dozen playful goats. Their silliness and constant hassling for food is so distracting that you forget that you're walking in shit the whole time.
twas: The night before Christmas, I attended services at Peachtree Presbyterian Church on Roswell Road.
The church's facilities are large and its congregation rather well-off, so it's a perfect place to take in the beautiful ceremony and pageantry of a Christmas Eve service.
The bulk of the 7 p.m. service was devoted to singing Christmas carols. Not the Santa-Claus-is-coming-to-town-in-a-one-horse-open-sleigh-while-roasting-chestnuts variety, but the actual religious ones, like "O Come, All Ye Faithful," "The First Noel," "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and "Angels We Have Heard on High." The congregation was accompanied in its caroling by the choir, organ and horns.
The singing was fun, although I gotta gripe that they did it in a key that made me have to sing so low I couldn't get very loud.
So carol-themed was the evening, in fact, that Senior Pastor Vic Pentz's meditation topic was the carol "O Holy Night." He explained the meaning of the carol and compared it with verses from 1 John. Among other remarks, he mentioned how he heard the song in the mall recently and was surprised that such an uncompromisingly Christ-centered Christmas carol had made it through the "filter of political correctness" that governs mall playlists.
I thought he was gonna go off on a Fox-style rant about Christmas being under attack, but fortunately he did not. Nevertheless, I'd like to take this moment to reassure the pastor. I'm an atheist who grew up in a non-observant Muslim-Iranian household in ultra-politically correct suburban Maryland, yet I know all the words to even the most religious of the carols. Relax, the PC filter you worry about isn't doing the job.
The service ended with the organist going to the piano and leading the congregation in "Silent Night" as everyone in the church held candles. It was lovely.
For more on Andisheh's outings, visit Scene & Herd at atlanta.creativeloafing.com.