“King Herod’s Song (Try It and See)” from Jesus Christ Superstar

It’s not just the detractors of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar that point this song out as the show’s low point. Even the show’s most devoted fans tend to decry it as a totally out-of-place Vaudevillian novelty in the midst of the show’s descent into tragedy. Many make much of the fact that its melody was originally written for one of Webber and Tim Rice’s unproduced early efforts (it’s original title was “Those Saladin Days”), and some have suggested that Webber simply wasn’t willing to give up the tune, to the point of shoehorning it into a show where it patently didn’t belong. But what all these critics fail to notice is that the song actually works really well on the original concept album. Its mindless frivolity makes a perfect compliment to the callous and uncaring downward spiral that Jesus is being subjected to at the this point, and it actually makes the show’s inexorable descent into tragedy much stronger and more disturbing than it would have been if they had stuck to an ‘appropriate’ tone throughout. That said, it is true that no-one has ever found a way to make this number work on an actual stage, and Josh Mostel’s performance of it in the film version is one of the all-time bad musical numbers from an otherwise good musical. So while I get why it was included in the first place and even consider that inclusion perfectly justified, I will admit that it has wound up being more of a handicap to the show than anything else.

Verdict: Good on the concept album, but varying degrees of bad in pretty much every stage production the show has ever received.

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