King of the pews

It was clear just 10 minutes into the Woodlawn’s premiere of J.C. Rocks — a karaoke version of the passion of Christ — that this misbegotten production should never have been reviewed: During the nativity scene, we see Mary, a onetime biker chick and now Mother of God, apparently expel a bouncing plastic doll from Her Vagina. With a sigh, I realized there was nothing to be done but my critic’s duty, and so, here goes: Jonathan Pennington’s J. C. Rocks, a self-proclaimed “classic ’80s rock opera,” doesn’t attain the level of even high-school theater; the production fails in every aspect, including dancing, acting, singing, lighting, sound, and direction. The only thing it passeth is all comprehension. (Even the dancers looked occasionally confused.) The songs of e.g. Madonna, Van Halen, and Michael Jackson have been shoehorned into the slimmest of scripts, and so frequently make little sense in their new context. In a particularly laughable scene, Jesus is flogged to the strains of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” which gives additional measure of the show’s bathos. (In a sense, though, a cosmic rift has been healed. Cyndi Lauper and flagellation: together at last.) That the Woodlawn is charging up to $25 a ticket is an outrage.

Let me add that though the Woodlawn’s website claims that the production is appropriate for both secular and spiritual audiences, I suspect that many non-Christians will feel uncomfortable. To the best of my intuition, this absolutely sincere production is geared exclusively towards evangelicals, several of whom seemed genuinely moved by the crucifixion scene; in a sense, J.C. Rocks is a continuation of worship services. To a secular eye, the cultural politics of the show are troubling; Jesus is portrayed by a pale, scantily clad Anglo lad with a cascading mane of blond hair, while his betrayer Judas is black, and his nemesis, Satan, is female. In particular, I found the mean-spirited characterization of Herod as a flamboyant gay man with a crush on Jesus to be distasteful and offensive; so soon after Proposition 8, this isn’t exactly the way to mend fences.

The show is transparently aimed a smallish segment of the theater-going public and can’t have any appeal to a wide or sophisticated audience. It’s the worst thing I’ve seen in San Antonio. 

J.C. Rocks
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 7:30pm
Sunday matinees at 3:00pm 
Woodlawn Theatre
1920 Fredericksburg
(210) 738-1117

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