Jesus Christ Superstar

From Academic Kids

Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Introduced in 1970, it highlights the political and interpersonal struggles of Judas Iscariot and Jesus, and is told largely from Judas's irreverent point of view. The action takes place within the last week of Jesus's life, beginning with the entry into Jerusalem and ending with the Crucifixion. Twentieth-century attitude and sensibilities pervade the lyrics, and ironic allusions to modern life are scattered throughout.


From Album to Broadway

The opera was first heard as an album before being staged—on Broadway and later in London's West End. (The same pattern would be followed by Rice and Lloyd Webber's second great musical hit, Evita.) On the original album, the part of Jesus was sung by Ian Gillan and that of Judas by Murray Head. The future Gary Glitter had a one-liner as a priest and Michael d'Abo appears as King Herod. The title song, sung by Judas, and the song "I Don't Know How to Love Him", sung by the Mary Magdalene character about her relationship with Jesus, were both big hits.

In 1971, the show opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway. Many religious groups protested outside the theatre, claiming that the show sacrilegiously portrayed Jesus Christ as a mere man. The Broadway production would receive mixed reviews, as reviewers from the New York Times deemed it to be a heartless overhyped production. The show starred Jeff Fenholt and Ben Vereen. Carl Anderson stepped into the role of Judas when Vereen fell ill, and the two performers later took turns playing the role. The Broadway show would close after 18 months.

"Superstar" opened at the Palace Theater in London in 1972, starring Paul Nicholas as Jesus and Stephen Tate as Judas. This production was much more successful, running for eight years and becoming the world's longest-running musical (a title now held by the London production of "Cats").

Widescreen Film

During the filming of Fiddler on the Roof, Barry Dennen (who played Pilate on the concept recording) suggested to Norman Jewison that he should direct Jesus Christ Superstar as a film. After hearing the concept album, Jewison agreed to do it. The movie was filmed in Israel and other middle eastern locations in 1973. The cast consisted mostly of actors from the Broadway show, with Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson starring as Jesus and Judas. Along with Dennen, Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene) and Bob Bingham (Caiaphas) reprised their Broadway roles in the film. Originally, Jewison had wanted Ian Gillan to reprise his role as Jesus, but Gillan turned down the offer, deciding that he could make more money touring with Deep Purple. Like the stage show, the film also gave way to controversy, causing a religious group to bomb a theater in South America at which it was playing.

One member of the film's cast went on to an unusual film career. Philip Toubus, who played Peter, found himself struggling as a mainstream actor. But three years after appearing in Jesus Christ Superstar, and having changed his name to Paul Thomas, he began a long and successful career performing in adult films.


By the turn of the century, the furor over the play had died down so greatly that it is now often performed by church groups, who appear to appreciate it simply as a secular play concerning Jesus, with excellent music. There was also a North American touring revival of "Superstar" in 1992, with Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson once again reprising their roles as Jesus and Judas. Neeley and Anderson would end up getting rave reviews for their performances. Originally expected to run for a couple of months, the tour would end up running for five years total.

1992 also saw the London production on its 20th Anniversary, featuring Paul Nicholas from the original cast as Jesus, and the highly acclaimed Australian concert cast, starring John Farnham as Jesus and Jon Stevens as Judas and produced by entrepreneur Harry M. Miller.

In 1996, "Superstar" would be revived once again in London. Directed by Gale Edwards, this version of "Superstar" would be updated to appeal to a new generation of fans. This new production starred Steve Balsamo and Zubin Varla as Jesus and Judas. Referred to as the "Lyceum Production," it was relatively successful. This eventually led Gale Edwards to restage the show for a UK tour, followed by a video starring Glenn Carter as Jesus and Jerome Pradon as Judas. This "new" interpretation of the show was revived on Broadway in 2000 again starring Carter, but a last minute change made Tony Vincent, who had played Simon in the video, step into the role of Judas. It opened to mixed reviews and closed quickly. It was more popular in its UK/European run; it opened in 1998 and closed around 2001.

In 2002, a national tour was begun starring 1980s rock star Sebastian Bach as Jesus and Carl Anderson once again reprising his role as Judas. Bach received mixed reviews, while Carl Anderson was once again praised for his performance as Judas. In April 2003, following a disagreement with the director, Bach was replaced with Broadway star Eric Kunze. Carl Anderson would eventually leave the show after being diagnosed with leukemia. Anderson was replaced by "Superstar" veteran Lawrence Clayton, who had appeared as Simon and understudied the part of Judas in the previous national tour.

Carl Anderson died of leukemia on February 23, 2004. He was 58 years old. According to the Los Angeles Times, Anderson had been planning to appear in a worldwide tour that was to open in Vatican City in the fall of 2004. As of 2005, this tour is still scheduled to open, with Ted Neeley as Jesus, at an undisclosed time.

The show has become a cultural phenomenon and has been produced around the world many times. Such places that performed Superstar included Hungary, New Zealand, France, Mexico, Chile, Bulgaria, Sweden, Moscow, and many more. Notable casts also include the 1976 Japanese cast, starring Takeshi Kaga of Iron Chef fame as Jesus. Germany has also produced the show several times, such as the 2001 live recording. In 2004, "Superstar" would once again be revived, this time as yet another tour around Britain. Glenn Carter would reprise his role as Jesus and British pop star James Fox would star as Judas.

Fan World

Evan Grubbs, web owner of (, previously hosted 72 recordings of the show for free on his website. He had to take them down, however, when The Really Useful Group ( and Universal sent him a cease and desist letter. He continues to provide the most accurate and complete recordings collection, interviews, and assorted Jesus Christ Superstar knowledge of any other site at (

External links

de:Jesus Christ Superstar es:Jesucristo Superstar fr:Jesus Christ Superstar nl:Jesus Christ Superstar ru:Иисус Христос суперзвезда sv:Jesus Christ Superstar


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