Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar


Original Broadway production

On October 12, 1971, the show, directed by Tom O'Horgan, opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway. The Broadway production received mixed reviews, as reviewers from the "New York Times" deemed it to be a heartless overhyped production; Andrew Lloyd Webber has also criticized it harshly. [ [ "Jesus Christ Superstar: A note from Andrew Lloyd Webber"] ] The show starred Jeff Fenholt as Jesus, Ben Vereen as Judas and Bob Bingham as Caiaphas. Barry Dennen, the original Pilate on the "Brown Album," had been living and working in London when he recorded the LP. He was back in the States in time to play Pilate on Broadway. Yvonne Elliman, the original Mary Magdalene, was also a part of the cast. Kurt Yaghjian sang Annas. Ted Neeley (who was cast as a Christ understudy) and Anita Morris also appeared in the cast. Carl Anderson stepped into the role of Judas when Vereen fell ill, and the two performers later took turns playing the role. The show closed after an 18 month run.


The Broadway show and subsequent productions were condemned by some religious groups. Tim Rice was quoted as saying "It happens that we don't see Christ as God but simply the right man at the right time at the right place." [ [Time, Nov. 9,1970] Rice went on to say "we are basically trying to tell the story of Christ as a man. I think he increases in stature by looking at him as a man."] [ [Life magazine, May 28, 1971] ] Some Christians consider these comments, as well as the omission of the resurrection, to be sacrilegious.Fact|date=May 2008 They also found the character of Judas too sympathetic and some of his criticisms of Jesus offensive. [ [ "Jesus Christ Superstar", Critically Examined in Light of The Bible - by E. L. Bynum] ] [ [ Free Presbyterian Church - Online Pamphlet] ] At the same time, some Jews said that it bolstered the anti-Semitic claim that the Jews are responsible for Jesus' death by showing most of the villains as Jewish (Caiaphas and the other priests, Herod) and showing the crowd in Jerusalem calling for the crucifixion. [ [ SUPERSTAR' FILM RENEWS DISPUTES:Jewish Groups Say Opening Could Stir Anti-Semitism Reasons Given Company Issues Statement - New York Times] ] [ [,winter,48380,6.html village voice > news > Mel Gibson's Jesus Christ Pose by Jessica Winter] ] Many religious groups protested outside the theater during the first Broadway production.Fact|date=November 2007

The play was banned in South Africa for being "irreligious." [ [ Jesus Christ Superstar: Show facts and figures ] ]

Other 1970s productions

The first stage performance of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Europe was performed on the 25th of December, Christmas, in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1971. The performance took place in the Cold War Era, when Lithuania was occupied by Soviets. The performance was banned by soviet authorities and performers were persecuted by KGB.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" was performed in 1971 in Hungary. The performance was based on the original studio version, and the band and orchestra parts were transcribed to a five piece rockband. The group, Korong, whose Tibor Miklós wrote the Hungarian lyrics, was, after a few enormously successful performances in Budapest's university clubs, banned from performing it.

"Superstar" opened at the Palace Theatre 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 United Kingdom's longest-running musical at the time (it was later surpassed by other works but remains the fifth longest-running). During its 20th anniversary, the production featured Paul Nicholas from the original cast as Jesus.

In May 1972 the original Australian production opened at the Capitol Theatre, Sydney, later moving to the Palais Theatre in Melbourne [ [ 1972 Australian production] ] . Directed by Jim Sharman, the cast featured Trevor White as Jesus, Jon English as Judas and Marcia Hines as Mary Magdalene (the first black woman to play this role); other cast members included Reg Livermore, Doug Parkinson, John Paul Young and Stevie Wright. It ran until February 1974.

In 1976, "Jesus Christ Superstar" began its first U.S. national tour with a company managed by Laura Shapiro Kramer. The tour continued until 1980. In 1977, the musical was performed at the first annual Illinois High School Theater Festival. Jesus was portrayed, in this rendition, by an African American woman.

1990s productions

The North American touring revival of "Superstar" in 1992, titled the AD Anniversary Tour, starred Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson reprising their 1973 film roles as Jesus and Judas and getting rave reviews for their performances. This production also starred both Dennis DeYoung of Styx and James O'Neil (Founding Artistic Director of the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, CA) as Pontius Pilate, and Syreeta, Irene Cara, and Christine Rea as Mary Magdalene. Originally expected to run for three to four months, the tour ended up running for five years.

A 1992 Australian concert cast, starred John Farnham as Jesus, Jon Stevens as Judas and Kate Ceberano as Mary Magdalene. The Australian production was produced by the entrepreneur Harry M. Miller Garry Van Egmond and International Management Group.

A concert version was performed on November 15 and 16, 1998 to launch the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, California. Three performances were given, starring Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson and the company from the AD Anniversary Tour. All three shows were sold out, and RTC is now in its 9th Season as a theatre company in Ventura, CA.Fact|date=May 2008

In 1994, a New Zealand production (also produced by Harry M. Miller Garry Van Egmond and International Management Group)saw changes in production style, such as the rock guitar solo introducing the show played by a guitarist on a spotlighted, elevated platform, and costuming which included a complete lack of sandals. Jesus was played by Darryl Lovegrove; Caiaphas by Frankie Stevens, elder brother of Jon Stevens (the two played together on stage when the production toured Australia, with Jon in his previous role as Judas); and Judas by the stage, television and cinema star Jay Laga'aia. Red laser was used to represent the whip during the scourging; similarly lasers were used for the wounds of the crucifixion. The show closed with an expanding cone of green laser, centered on Jesus' crucified corpse, shining through mist to eventually envelop the whole audience.

Also in 1994, a stage version titled "Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection" was produced and performed in Atlanta, Austin and Seattle. This version featured many musicians from the Atlanta alternative scene, including the Indigo Girls members Amy Ray as Jesus and Emily Saliers as Mary Magdalene, and fellow guitarist Michael Lorant as Judas.

In 1996, "Superstar" was revived in London. Directed by Gale Edwards, this version of "Superstar" was updated to appeal to a new generation of fans. It 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 with ex-Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach as Jesus and Carl Anderson once again as Judas. Bach received mixed reviews, while Anderson was again praised. In April 2003, following a disagreement with the director, Bach was replaced with the Broadway star Eric Kunze. Carl Anderson eventually left the show after being diagnosed with leukemia and died in 2004. He was replaced by Lawrence Clayton, who had appeared as Simon and understudied the part of Judas in the previous national tour.

In August 2004 a new national UK tour began, directed by Bill Kenwright. Originally scheduled to end in December, the tour's success resulted in a longer run, and it continued through August 2005. Glenn Carter reprised his role as Jesus and British pop singer James Fox played Judas, with Emma Dears as Mary Magdalene.

A live-in-concert, one-night only, performance of JCS took place at The Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles, CA on August 13, 2006, reuniting Ted Neeley, Yvonne Elliman and Barry Dennen from the 1973 film, Broadway and Los Angeles productions of the show, as well as Ben Vereen (the original Judas on Broadway), and Jack Black as Herod. The performance also featured Larry Friedman as Annas, Chris Carey as Caiaphas, and Chuck DiMaria as one of the priests. All three were featured performers in the AD Anniversary Tour between 1993 and 1997, as well as the world-famousFact|date=May 2008 Agape Choir. The performance benefitted "YouTHeatre-America!", and The Ricardo Montalban Theatre.

Also in 2006, a tour (originally billed as "The Ted Neeley Farewell Tour", now billed as the new "A.D. Tour") starring Ted Neeley reprising his role as Jesus and Corey Glover (of rock band Living Colour) as Judas, began in September and has played over 120 venues to date. This production offers an instructive contrast with the earliest productions: the hip attitudes and radical posturing having been replaced by 'biblical' stylings combined with costuming and sets which owe more to Catholicism than Carnaby Street. The tour is slated to run through 2009, but now is reportedly set to run indefinitely depending upon audience and critical reception. Carl Anderson was set to reprise his role as Judas before his death.

On the 20th and 21st of March 2008, Drew Sarich, who had previously done several performances of the show (as Jesus and Judas), reprised his role as Jesus opposite former castmate Serkan Kaya as Judas in Vienna, Austria.

In January of 2009, Atlanta's Alliance Theatre will bring a new Gospel version of "Superstar" to the stage. This new version was conceived by Louis St. Louis of Smokey Joe's Cafe fame and will be directed by Tony Award winning director Susan V. Booth.

Other international productions

The show has become a cultural phenomenon and has been produced many times, including productions in Ireland, Hungary, India, New Zealand, Italy, France, Mexico, Chile, Bulgaria, South Africa, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Czech republic, Greece, Australia, The Philippines, Panama, Colombia (Misi Group), Croatia (Theater Komedija), Bolivia (where it was also released as a TV movie) and many more. Two notable Jesuses were Takeshi Kaga of Iron Chef fame in the 1976 Japanese version, and the singer Camilo Blanes Cortés aka Camilo Sesto in the 1975 Spanish one. In Germany, the show can be seen every year in different productions by a number of the country's repertory theaters.

Other recordings and broadcasts

In 1980 the first ever Polish production of Jesus Christ Superstar appeared on stage, starring Marek Piekarczyk as Jesus and Andrzej Sledz as Judas. The show was well received by many in Poland and has been revived many times since.

In 1994, a studio recording under the name of "Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection" was released and starred various artists including the Indigo Girls. A video recording of their performance at SXSW in Austin was released as well but went out of print after only a few months. Bootleg copies still remain.

In a 1996 radio production for BBC Radio 2, Jesus was played by Tony Hadley, Judas by Roger Daltrey and Mary Magdalene by Frances Ruffelle.

In 1997, the band Bigtop released a cover of "Pilate and Christ" (under the title "The 39 Lashes") on their album "On the Rise." The track also included some sampled dialog by Samuel L. Jackson from the film Pulp Fiction.

In 1999, the music of Jesus Christ Superstar was performed by the Madison Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps on the Drum Corps International (DCI) competitive circuit.

Around 1999/2000, an Italian performance of Jesus Christ Superstar was broadcast on radio. The cast starred Paride Acacia as Jesus, Egidio La Gioia as Judas and Olivia Cinquemani as Mary. Carl Anderson appeared on this recording as well, singing the song "Superstar". In 2000 a national tour began which was directed by Carl Anderson and starred many of the same cast members from the radio broadcast.

In 2005 the first Dutch national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar began in The Netherlands. Produced by Joop van den Ende the production starred Dieter Troubleyn as Jesus, Martin van der Starre as Judas and Casey Francisco as Mary. Jamai Loman who previously won the Dutch version of Idols played Simon. The tour was a great success and ran for 2 years straight.

In summer 2007 Anastacia opened the medley section of the Concert for Diana with a rendition of Superstar, backed by a gospel chorus.

In November 2007 the band Queensrÿche released "Heaven On Their Minds" on the album "Take Cover". Queensrÿche guitarist Mike Stone states in the liner notes "It's getting hot in the kitchen, and Judas can't take the heat. This is one of my favorite songs from J.C. Superstar. I have always wanted to hear a rocked-up version of this tune...and now I can!"

On 22 April 2008, the song "Superstar" was performed on "American Idol" by contestant Carly Smithson, before getting eliminated the following day.


A film adaptation of "Jesus Christ Superstar" was released in 1973, and was the eighth highest-grossing film of that year. The film, directed by Norman Jewison, was shot in Israel and other Middle Eastern locations. Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson were both nominated for 1974 Golden Globe Awards for their portrayals of Jesus and Judas. Bob Bingham reprised the role of Caiaphas, having played the part in the original Broadway production. Barry Dennen (Pontius Pilate) and Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene) were the only performers who remained from both the original recording and Broadway cast. Though it attracted criticism from some religious groups, the film was generally well received.Fact|date=May 2008

A further film adaptation was released in 2000, starring Glenn Carter as Jesus, Jérôme Pradon as Judas and Rik Mayall as Herod. The film was directed by Gale Edwards and Nick Morris, and won an Emmy in 2001 for Best Performing Arts film. The style of the film is more like the stage version than the location-based 1973 adaptation, and used many of the ideas from the tour from around that time. Most of the film's cast later went on tour on Broadway after shooting the film.

In a 2008 interview with Variety magazine, film producer Marc Platt stated that he was in discussions with several filmmakers for a remake of "Superstar".


1972 Tony Award nominations

* Tony Award for Best Original Score - Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; Lyrics by Tim Rice
* Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical - Ben Vereen
* Tony Award for Best Scenic Design - Scenic Design by Robin Wagner
* Tony Award for Best Costume Design - Costume Design by Randy Barcelo
* Tony Award for Best Lighting Design - Lighting Design by Jules Fisher

1972 Theatre World Award

* Theatre World Award — Ben Vereen (WINNER)

1972 Drama Desk Awards

* Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Composer — Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber (WINNER)

2000 Tony Award nomination

* Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical - Produced by The Really Useful Superstar Company, Inc., Nederlander Producing Company of America, Inc.; Produced in association with Terry Allen Kramer


External links

* [ JCS Database and Online Community]
* [ Guide to JCS online]
* [ Ted Neeley's personal website] Neeley On The Road.
* [ SuKaDe's Ted Neeley website. Teddie Neeley Three - TNT]
* [ Cindi's Ted Neeley and Joseph Fuqua Page]
* [ The Official Andrew Lloyd Webber Site]
* [ JCS at]
* [ "Suffolk Times" article] on the original Southold High School production.
* [ "Farewell Tour Website"] The Official Site of Ted Neeley's Farewell Tour.

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