Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Dec 22nd 2010 1:00PM by Karen Bliss
In 'Peaches Christ Superstar,' Peaches was back to being Merrill Nisker, the theatre-loving musical adventurer her parents, relatives, junior and high school friends (many in attendance) remember from her youth in the suburbs. Those who knew her then, and later in folk trio Mermaid Café, alt. jazz-rock outfit Fancypants Hoodlum and experimental quartet, the S--- (all progressively more "out-there"), knew she had something special: guts, determination and creativity.
It is that triumvirate of traits that led to 'Peaches Christ Superstar.'
Perhaps worried about a raunchy, campy, over-the-top Peaches treatment, the rights holders initially put the kibosh on her plans. She vented on Twitter, and word spread to traditional media and soon to the ears of Rice himself: the guy who had the guts, determination and creativity in the first place to write songs based on the ultimate superstar, Jesus. He gave his blessing and the show was resurrected.
For her final planned performance of the famed musical (Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber are apparently remounting it and pulling all other productions around the world), Peaches and accompanist -- pianist Chilly Gonzales, another Torontonian also known as Jason Beck -- pulled off this still-modern interpretation of Jesus' last days until his crucifixion with the required range and depth needed if it was ever to work with just one person singing the story.
For Act I, Peaches appeared on the large bare stage wearing cream-coloured leotards and ballet slippers, and nakedly proceeded through all the songs, changing her tone or range to illustrate another character (Judas, Mary, Jesus, etc.). There were no stage props, no lights, nothing but her talent. Peaches and Gonzales (alongside whom she played in the S--- in the late '90s before they both went to Europe and reinvented themselves) were remarkable, with Peaches using her full range, including a gorgeous falsetto, and Gonzales displaying his dexterous skills from dissonant to melodic.
Act II was a little more in keeping with the Peaches persona that has helped her earn a dedicated following all over the world and album sales in the half a million range. For this, she wore heavy make-up and a gold over-sized padded jacket, which would not be out of place at her "normal" concerts, nor would the whip she brought out for the 39 lashes. But except for 10 local artists who jeered on cue from the front rows, and later jumped onstage to dance (as her disciples) and help place her on a gold-covered platform for the crucifixion, Peaches kept it sparse.
This set was more physical and the songs more demanding and aggressive leading up to Jesus' crucifixion. Like the first half, she continued to schizophrenically jump from voice to voice -- funky, fierce, cocky, soft -- as Gonzales deftly ran from raucous to plaintive, at one point playing the 'Jesus Christ Superstar' melody with one hand and a repetitive rumbling with the other.
And as she sang the mocking words in 'King Herod's Song' -- "C'mon, King of the Jews/I only ask what I'd ask any superstar/What is it that you have got that puts you were you are/I am waiting, yes, I'm a captive fan" -- Peaches' own captive fans at the QE Theatre could easily answer that question about her. What is it that put this Queen of the Jews where she is? Freedom of expression.
Something she would've been crucified for in Jesus' day.