“I love to tell the story”
Towards the end of the interview, Neeley was asked if playing the character of Jesus had brought any bizarre experiences with fans over his 46-year adventure. Boy, did he ever have a story to tell:
“Here we are at the opening of the first international tour of this show at the Universal Amphitheater and people are hanging out after the show to talk to us. Sometimes we’d be there until 2:00 -3:00 in the morning talking to people, ” Neeley remembers. “While we were there doing that, and this lady walked up and she was obviously very pregnant, and she stepped up to say hello and she was crying.
She said, ‘Mr, Neeley may I hold your hand?’
I said, ‘of course.’
She took my hand and placed it on her stomach, and the minute our hands touched her tummy, the baby moved and the baby kicked.
She went, ‘Oh my god! You just blessed my child!’
I thought she was acting. She was crying her heart out. That was overwhelming for me. That was in 1971.”
It gets even better…
“I’m in Rome this past year and still talking to the people in the audience in the lobby of the theater after the show. People are hanging out until 4:00 AM and during that period the same lady walks up and said:
‘Hello, Mr Neeley, I don’t know if you remember or not, but at the Universal Amphitheater, I was the one that came up and asked you to bless my child.’
She turned to her left and said, ‘This is my child that you blessed. I want you to meet her. She has a perfect life.’
I want to say, ‘I thank you so much, but I’m just a screaming rock-n-roll drummer from Texas who got really lucky.‘
I’m not Jesus. I am not Jesus.
I wasn’t about to do that because they feel the presentation of the show because it’s always done live, just like the movie.”
As for Ted…
How many actors, aside from Neeley, have been in the same character for over 45 years? While there are likely others, this writer can’t think of a single one off the top of his head! To say the show has been life-changing for Neeley would be the understatement of the century.
“I’m the luckiest man alive,” Neeley declares.
What’s more? The show had a profound effect on Neeley’s personal life as well. Neeley’s wife, Leeyan, whom he met on the movie set, was the principal dancer in the film. The two have been married for 38 years and have two (grown) children together.
“This project gave me a life; a family. Think about it, I was auditioning for Judas, but I was asked, ‘Would you please come back and sing the other guy?’ There you go! I’m ‘the other guy,'” Neeley said with a laugh. “I’m a rock-n-roll screaming drummer from Texas who became the other guy.”