Simon Says … Change in Direction?

A reverse "Jesus Christ Superstar"?

Matthew G. Myers lets out a laugh. "Yes, I guess you could say I am."

After all, the award-winning musical, which takes for gospel the rise and fall of Jesus — and which alights for a limited run at the Academy of Music this Friday — has long been tethered between theater and theology, as the star-crossed Jewish carpenter advocates a new religion, which evolves into Christianity.

Myers, who portrays apostle Simon, says he's had his own revelation: A Christian, raised Pentecostal, he's in the process of considering converting to Judaism.

Forget what Jesus is driving — what would he say about it going in reverse? The actor is fueled by feelings he's had for some time; he's been in three productions of the musical. And he's been singing hosannas on learning Hebrew for so long that as soon as the tour ends, the Kabbalah acolyte will root out a rebbe to alter his roots.

"I've always been fascinated with the Jewish faith," says the actor with a variety of theatrical credits to his name. "Back at Sunday school, at the time of Easter, we had a rabbi come in to teach us about Passover."

That leavened his need for direction, and "as I got older, I fell out of church and started a spiritual quest."

Beam him up … at the bimah. "Judaism enthralls me; I wake up thinking I want to be a Jew."

Better than the wake-up call Jesus gets on stage when he goes up against the Romans. Not that all productions of the seminal seminary-style musical with a sensational score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice have been so super for Jews.

There have been claims that the show — and the 1973 movie — has an anti-Semitic sideshow for the same price of admission.

It is an admission that Myers doesn't fear making.

"I can understand that," concurs Myers. "I can see the story from many angles."

He has his own as well; Myers is also the understudy — and has played the part elsewhere — for this production's Judas.

Hi, ho, silver!

"Look, anti-Semitism spiraled out of the Gospels, and this is based on that," he says, "although I can't see [Webber/Rice] intending to write it like that."

He is not about to rouse the rabble, just encourage audiences to sit back and enjoy an extremely durable hit. And he can see how "JCS" can toss a bouquet of beauty and not thorns in the path of audiences who have seen the show through dozens of resurrections over the years.

"I believe it can foster better relations between Jews and Christians," he says, soon to sample the symmetry himself.  




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