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Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera that became a musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It highlights the political and interpersonal struggles of Judas Iscariot and Jesus. The rock opera is based on St John's Gospel account of the last week of Jesus' life, beginning with the preparation for Jesus' and his followers' arrival in Jerusalemmarker and ending with the Crucifixion. Twentieth-century attitudes and sensibilities as well as contemporary slang pervade the lyrics and ironic allusions to modern life are scattered throughout the political depiction of the events. Stage and film productions accordingly feature many intentional anachronisms.

A large part of the plot focuses on the character of Judas who is depicted as a tragic figure who is dissatisfied with what he views as Jesus' lack of planning and is also alarmed by the relatively recent claims of his divinity. He fears that Jesus will doom the Jewish people to destruction at the hands of the Romans.

Plot and songs

Act I

After an overture, the production starts with a musical monologue from the apostle Judas Iscariot, who expresses concern over Jesus' rising popularity as a "king" and the negative repercussions that it will have ("Heaven on Their Minds"). While Judas still loves Jesus, he believes that Jesus is just a man and that the movement is getting too large and will eventually be seen as a threat to the higher order. Judas believes, once this comes to pass, that not only will Jesus receive the consequences, but so will all of his followers.

However, Judas' warning falls on deaf ears, as Jesus' followers have their minds set on going to Jerusalem with Jesus. As they question Jesus as to when they will be arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus tells them to stop worrying about the future since whatever will happen is already predetermined by God ("What's the Buzz?").

Recognizing that Jesus is irritated by the badgering from his followers, Mary Magdalene helps Jesus relax by anointing him with ointment. Judas expresses concern over the fact that Jesus is associating himself with Mary, a prostitute. Judas says that by associating with her, he (Jesus) is contradicting everything that he says and this, in turn, will be used against him and his followers ("Strange Thing Mystifying"). Jesus gets angry and tells Judas that unless he is without sin himself, he should not judge the character of others. Jesus then reproaches his apostles for being "shallow, thick and slow" and exclaims that not a single man among them cares about him.

In a scene added exclusively for the 1973 movie version, a high priest Caiaphas complains about the provocations that Jesus is causing and how his actions threaten the people, the Romans and the priests themselves. Fellow priest Annas tries to reassure him that Jesus is merely what the people want and that he is simply a fad; but when Caiaphas points out the risks that believing so takes, Annas advises him to present his case to the priests' council, which Caiaphas agrees to do ("Then We Are Decided"). Though most versions abstain from the inclusion of this song, it has been praised for its development of the characters of Annas and Caiaphas and its linkage of the rest of the plot.

Mary Magdalene tries to assure Jesus that everything will be all right and attempts to relax him with more ointment ("Everything's Alright"). In response, Judas angrily insists that the money used to obtain the ointment should have been used to help the poor. Jesus sadly explains that he and his followers do not have the resources to help every poor person.

Meanwhile, Caiaphas, Annas, and other high-ranking proud Jewish priests meet to discuss Jesus and his movement. At this point, his followers continue to grow by the thousands, so much that even the higher order is aware of the hype. Given the size of Jesus' movement and the fact that the movement consists of Jews who are unwilling to accept the Romans as their kings (in contrast to the high Jewish priests), the priests believe that he is becoming a threat to the Roman Empire; and if the Roman Empire is threatened, then many Jews will suffer – perhaps even those who are not following Jesus. As all of the priests attempt to solve the problem of Jesus and his followers, Caiaphas states that the only real solution is to kill Jesus ("This Jesus Must Die").

As Jesus and his followers arrive in Jerusalem, they are confronted by Caiaphas, who demands that Jesus disband them. However, Jesus replies that putting an end to the hysteria is impossible ("Hosanna"). Afterwards, Jesus is approached by his apostle Simon Zealotes. Realizing the popularity that Jesus has attained, Simon suggests that he (Jesus) lead his mob in a war against Rome and gain absolute power ("Simon Zealotes"). But Jesus vehemently rejects this suggestion, stating that none of his followers understand what true power is nor do they understand his true message ("Poor Jerusalem").

Meanwhile, Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, reveals that he has dreamed of meeting with Jesus and seen the aftermath of Jesus' death, where he, Pilate receives all of the blame. However, Pilate is not entirely clear of the meaning of his dream ("Pilate's Dream").

Jesus arrives at the temple in Jerusalem and finds that it is being used for selling everything from weapons to prostitutes and drugs. When Jesus arrives, he is furious and demands that the merchants and money changers leave the temple ("The Temple"). Angry and tired, Jesus wanders off and is confronted by a mob of lepers, cripples, and beggars, all wanting to be healed. However, the mob is too large and Jesus is overwhelmed. Unable to solve everyone's problems for them, Jesus tells the crowd to heal themselves.

After the mob leaves, Mary Magdalene finds Jesus upset. Mary tells him to rest ("Everything's Alright-Reprise"). While Jesus is asleep, Mary reflects on the fact that while she is in love with Jesus, he is unlike any man that she has loved before. As a result, Mary does not know how to cope with her feelings ("I Don't Know How to Love Him").

Meanwhile, Judas worries more and more about Jesus' ever growing movement. He promises to help the priests against Jesus, while emphasizing that he is acting with unselfish motives ("Damned for All Time"). Caiaphas demands that Judas should reveal the whereabouts of Jesus, so that the authorities can apprehend him and imprison him. In exchange for the information, Judas is offered money. Judas initially turns down the offer, as it raises some ethical concerns within him. But he eventually obliges when Caiaphas tells of charities that he can give the money to. Judas decides that it would be better to turn Jesus in before his movement gets any bigger, which would thus lead to the deaths of not only him, but all of his followers as well. Thus, presumably to save the thousands of followers and himself, Judas reveals that on Thursday night, Jesus will be at the garden of Gethsemanemarker ("Blood Money").

Act II

On Thursday, Jesus meets with his twelve apostles for the Last Supper. Jesus realizes, unbeknownst to the apostles, that this will be his last supper with them. As Jesus passes bread and pours wine for his dining partners, he reminds them that they should remember him during supper by thinking of the wine as his blood and the bread as his body. Upon reflection, he angrily exclaims that nobody will even remember him after he dies and that two of his closest friends will betray and deny him. Jesus then reveals that Peter will be the one who denies him, not once, but three times. When Jesus states that one the twelve will betray him, Judas reveals to everyone that he is the person who will make the betrayal, but Jesus still allows him to go. Judas attempts to explain why he will do it, but Jesus refuses to listen. This makes Judas angry and he blames Jesus for all the trouble that has occurred up until this point. Upset, Judas leaves to find the Roman soldiers and bring them to Jesus ("The Last Supper").

After his apostles go to sleep, Jesus speaks to God, addressing him as "Father". He implores God to not let him go through his horrible, predetermined death (as Jesus puts it: "this cup of poison"). He reveals that he has become disillusioned with his quest as the Messiah and wishes to give up. Exhausted and afraid, he asks God to show him how his death will be in any way meaningful. God does not answer, and Jesus realizes that he cannot go against God's will. Jesus agrees to go with God's plan, and pleads to take his life quickly before he changes his mind ("Gethsemane").

Judas arrives with the soldiers and, in order to point Jesus out to them, kisses him on the cheek. Afterwards, Jesus is arrested. As his apostles wake up, they attempt to fight the authorities in order to free their Messiah, but Jesus asks them to put their swords away and let the authorities take him to Caiaphas. As the Roman soldiers take him to Caiaphas, a mob, imitating news reporters, asks Jesus what he plans to do, but Jesus declines to comment. When Jesus meets with Caiaphas, Caiaphas asks if he is the son of God. Jesus responds: "That's what you say, you say that I am." This answer provides enough justification for the high priests to send Jesus to Pontius Pilate ("The Arrest").

Meanwhile, Jesus' apostle Peter is confronted by an old man, a soldier, and a maid by a fire. Each state that they remember seeing him with Jesus, but to all three people, Peter denies that he knows him. Peter's denial is witnessed by Mary, who, after the three people leave, asks Peter why he denied Jesus. Peter responds that he had to do it in order to save himself, since he would possibly be arrested and prosecuted if it is discovered that he is a close friend of Jesus. Mary wonders how Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would deny him ("Peter's Denial").

When Jesus is brought to Pilate, Pilate mocks him. When Pilate asks Jesus if he is the son of God, Jesus gives Pilate the same answer that he gave Caiaphas: "that's what YOU said" (in the original recording). Pilate is unsatisfied with his answer, but eventually comments that since Jesus is from Galilee he is not under his jurisdiction, and sends him to King Herod ("Pilate and Christ"). While Jesus is being dragged away the chorus asks where his power has gone; they ask him "where is it now?" ("Hosanna-Reprise").

King Herod has heard all the hype about Jesus and is excited to finally meet him. He asks him to prove his divinity by performing miracles - "Change my water into wine" - "Walk across my swimming pool", offering to free him should he comply, but Jesus ignores him. Herod decides that Jesus is just another phony messiah and does not even want to take the time to prosecute him. Herod sends him back to Pilate ("King Herod's Song").

In a scene added for the Broadway production, the apostles and Mary Magdalene wistfully remember the beginnings of their movement and solemnly wish that they could just start again ("Could We Start Again Please?").

At this point, Judas has seen Jesus beaten and battered by the authorities. Feeling extreme guilt, he meets again with the high priests and expresses regret over what he has done. Judas feels that in the aftermath, he will be blamed for the death of Jesus and will forever be remembered as a traitor. Caiaphas states that Judas has nothing to be ashamed of and that what he has done will save everyone. However, this does nothing to rid Judas of his guilt. As Judas is left alone, he feels betrayed by God for having chosen him, within the divine plan, to be the one to betray Jesus. Judas blames God for murdering him and commits suicide ("Judas' Death").

Jesus is brought back to Pilate for his trial. Pilate asks Jesus to defend himself, but Jesus barely speaks. Pilate asks the crowd if they would crucify their king, to which the crowd declares "We have no king but Caesar!" (In the Broadway production, a stanza is added where Pilate admonishes the crowd for their sudden respect for Caesar, as well as how they "produce Messiahs by the sackful".) After hearing the crowd shouting "We need him crucified, it's all you have to do," Pilate suddenly remembers the dream he had about the crowd and the tune from Pilate's Dream (then I saw thousands of millions) is played at this point. Pilate goes on to declare that while Jesus is not mentally stable, and should be imprisoned, he (Jesus) does not deserve to die, and demands that the crowd give him a reason to do so. The crowd breaks into an improvised pep rally style cheer about how Jesus has defied Rome. Pilate calls the crowd hypocrites, for their hatred of Rome is far greater than that of Jesus. Reluctant to kill Jesus, Pilate attempts to satisfy the crowd's bloodlust by flogging him. After 39 lashes, however, the crowd is still unsatisfied. At this point, Jesus is so badly beaten that Pilate cannot handle the guilt. Hoping that he can somehow free Jesus, Pilate pleads with him to defend himself. But once again, Jesus (albeit weakly) says everything has been predetermined and Pilate cannot change it. With the crowd screaming for Jesus' crucifixion, reminding Pilate that he has a duty to Caesar to keep the peace which if not fulfilled will cause his demotion from power, Pilate reluctantly agrees to crucify him. Pilate declares that if Jesus won't defend himself, Pilate now "washes his hands" of the death of this "innocent puppet" ("Trial Before Pilate").

As Jesus prepares to be crucified, he is met by the spirit of Judas. Judas questions why Jesus chose to arrive in the manner that he did and if what happened to him was really part of a divine plan ("Superstar").

Jesus slowly dies on the cross ("The Crucifixion"). The play ends with an orchestral piece, "John 19:41." The title is a reference to a verse in the Bible about Jesus being laid in the tomb (Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid )

Principal roles

Character Voice Type Description
Jesus Christ Tenor Protagonist of the story, who many believe to be the son of God and the Messiah. Though he never refers to himself in such ways, word of his divinity spreads across the nation, and Jewish high priests Caiaphas and Annas begin to suspect him to be a threat for this. One of his apostles, Judas Iscariot, becomes wary about this, and warns Jesus to watch his actions, or else the repercussions could be deadly, such as associating himself with a prostitute, Mary Magdalene. Jesus retaliates to this by saying that as a mere imperfect human being, Judas is in no position to judge her based on merely her profession. Though Judas relents from speaking against her after this, he is alarmed when he catches Jesus with Mary, and warns Caiaphas and Annas about it. This ultimately results in him betraying Jesus and succumbing to their bribery to reveal his whereabouts, which they then use to arrest him and take him to trial before Pontius Pilate. Though Pilate eventually realizes that Jesus is an innocent man and has committed no crime, he cannot silence the bloodthirsty demands of the mob, and when Jesus tells him that he is meant to be crucified and die in such a way, Pilate gives in, and sentences him to death. After being spoken to by the spirit of the late Judas, asking if it really was part of God's divine plan for his son to die such a horrible death, Jesus is crucified and dies on the cross.
Judas Iscariot Tenor One of the twelve chosen apostles of Jesus, who is concerned for the poor and fears the consequences of Jesus being so glorified by people. He is frequently wary of the people finding Jesus at fault, after which they may no longer look up to him, but instead lock him away and call him a fraud. This is only escalated when he catches Jesus with Mary, a prostitute, and attempts to take control by turning to high priests Annas and Caiaphas for help. Instead, they bribe him to reveal Jesus's whereabouts, and use this information to arrest him. When Judas sees what they have done to Jesus after this, he realizes that this is all his fault, and that he will never be forgiven for such a thing. In a final fit of fury against God for making him do such a thing, he commits suicide. Later, when Jesus is about to be crucified, Judas' spirit speaks to him, mockingly asking if this horrible death was anticipated in his belief that everything happens for a reason.
Mary Magdalene Mezzo Soprano A prostitute who tries to soothe Jesus in his times of worry, only for him to be scolded by Judas for associating himself with such a woman. She finds herself falling in love with Jesus in a way she does not know how to handle, but is caught with him by Judas, who takes this as initiative to take action and warn the high priests about Jesus. It is this course of events that ultimately lead to Jesus' crucifixion.
Pontius Pilate Baritone Governor of Judea, who dreams of meeting Jesus and seeing him put to death, then suddenly being blamed for the death later on. After Jesus is arrested, and he meets him in person, Pilate remembers this dream, and tries to convince the bloodthirsty crowd to let him live in an attempt to save him. When the crowd does not relent, Pilate lets them flog Jesus thirty-nine times, and afterward, begs him to realize that his life is at stake and that he can still save himself. When Jesus insists that such a course of actions was meant to be, and nothing can stop it, Pilate turns back to the crowd, who warn him of his duty to Caesar and that he will be demoted and deported if he fails to crucify Jesus. Finally, he gives in to both the crowd's and Jesus's words, and sentences Jesus to be crucified.
Caiaphas Bass High priest sees Jesus as a threat to the nation, and pays off Judas to reveal his location, in order to arrest him and accuse him of claiming to be the son of God. It is he who first suggests that Pilate crucify Jesus.
Annas Tenor/Countertenor Fellow priest at the side of Caiaphas, who also takes part in bribing Judas to betray Christ, and appears at his arrest and trial. He seconds Caiaphas's suggestion to Pilate of crucifying Jesus.
Peter Baritone Apostle who denies Jesus three times upon the night of his arrest for the sake of saving himself, as predicted by Jesus during The Last Supper.
Simon Zealotes Tenor Apostle who urges Jesus to lead his followers into battle against the Romans who terrorize their country, but is criticized by Jesus for not understanding what power or glory are, and wanting to defeat their opponents using violence.
King Herod Tenor King of Galilee, to whom Jesus is brought after Pilate realizes he cannot accuse a foreigner. He sarcastically tells Jesus about how high his reputation has become, and how much word has spread about his miraculous deeds. He proceeds to taunt him, and mockingly ask him to do such tasks as turning water into wine, walking on water, and feeding a family with a single loaf of bread. When Jesus does not move a muscle or say a word, Herod begins to grow impatient, and eventually angered to the point where he demands that Jesus be taken away, without even sentencing him to any punishment, but merely shouting "get out of my life!" repeatedly.

Musical numbers

Act 1

  • 1. Overture - Orchestra
  • 2. Heaven on Their Minds - Judas
  • 3. What's the Buzz? - Apostles, Jesus, Mary
  • 4. Strange Thing, Mystifying - Judas, Jesus, Apostles
  • 5. Then We Are Decided - Caiaphas, Annas
  • 6. Everything's Alright - Mary, Women, Judas, Jesus, Apostles
  • 7. This Jesus Must Die - Annas, Caiaphas, Apostles, Priests
  • 8. Hosanna - Apostles, Caiaphas, Jesus
  • 9. Simon Zealotes - Apostles, Simon
  • 10. Poor Jerusalem - Jesus
  • 11. Pilate's Dream - Pilate
  • 12. The Temple - Chorus, Jesus
  • 13. Everything's Alright (Reprise) - Mary, Jesus
  • 14. I Don't Know How to Love Him - Mary
  • 15. Damned for All Time - Judas
  • 16. Blood Money - Annas, Caiaphas, Judas, Chorus

The song "Then We Are Decided" was included in the 1973 film, But does not feature in the stage show.

Act 2

  • 1. The Last Supper - Apostles, Jesus, Judas
  • 2. Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) - Jesus
  • 3. The Arrest - Judas, Jesus, Chorus, Annas, Caiaphas
  • 4. Peter's Denial - Maid by the Fire, Peter, Soldier, Old Man, Mary
  • 5. Pilate and Christ - Pilate, Annas, Jesus
  • 6. Hosanna (Reprise) - Chorus
  • 7. Herod's Song (Try It And See) - Herod
  • 8. Could We Start Again Please? - Mary, Apostles, Peter
  • 9. Judas' Death - Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, Chorus
  • 10. Trial Before Pilate (Including the Thirty-Nine Lashes) - Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, Jesus, Chorus
  • 11. Superstar - Judas, Dancer Girls
  • 12. The Crucifixion - Jesus
  • 13. John Nineteen: Forty One - Orchestra

Orchestra Parts

From album to Broadway

The UK album cover for the 1970 release of Jesus Christ Superstar.
The rock opera was first heard as an album before being staged on Broadwaymarker and later in Londonmarker's West Endmarker. On the original album, the part of Jesus was sung by Ian Gillan, the lead singer of Deep Purple who later also worked with Black Sabbath and others, and that of Judas by Murray Head. The future Gary Glitter had a one-liner as a priest and Michael d'Abo appeared as King Herod. The title song, "Superstar", sung by Judas (Murray Head), and "I Don't Know How to Love Him", sung by Mary Magdalene (Yvonne Elliman) about her relationship with Jesus, were both big hits. A cover of the latter song, recorded by singer Helen Reddy, would also reach the top 15 on the U.S. pop singles charts in early 1971. "The Temple" has also been covered by American grunge band Afghan Whigs on its 1992 album Congregation.

The original album has a rock flavor that is very different from Webber's later work. This is in part due to the emotive singing of Murray Head and Ian Gillan and the playing of well-known rock session musicians such as guitarists Neil Hubbard and Chris Spedding, bassist Alan Spenner and drummer Bruce Rowland. The musical arrangements are often multi-layered, featuring rock and classical elements, and contain many abruptly shifting dynamics and time signatures. Many feel that this is the definitive version of this musical.

Early community productions

In June 1971, the "first" US staged version was performed at Southold High School in Southold, New Yorkmarker by students of the school. However, other unauthorized productions were also going on at the time, eliciting a response in court from the authors, eventually shutting down several hundred productions between them before the official premiere (and becoming a benchmark in copyright law). The show remains a favorite for community and regional theater, sometimes with women taking male roles (particularly Judas) .

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. 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." Some Christians consider these comments, as well as the omission of the resurrection, to be sacrilegious. They also found the character of Judas too sympathetic and some of his criticisms of Jesus offensive. 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.

The play was banned in South Africa for being "irreligious."

Other 1970s productions

The first stage performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in Europe was performed on 25 December, Christmas, in Vilniusmarker, Lithuaniamarker in 1971. This was while Lithuania was part of the Soviet Unionmarker. The performance was banned by Soviet authorities and performers were persecuted by KGB.

Jesus Christ Superstar was performed in 1971 in Hungarymarker. 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 author Tibor Miklós wrote the Hungarian lyrics, had a few enormously successful performances in Budapestmarker's university clubs; however, it was banned afterwards from performing it.

Superstar opened at the Palace Theatremarker in London in 1972, starring Paul Nicholas as Jesus, Stephen Tate as Judas and Dana Gillespie as Mary. It was directed by Australian, Jim Sharman. 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, Sydneymarker, later moving to the Palais Theatremarker in Melbourne. Directed by Jim Sharman, the cast featured Trevor White (who dubbed Rocky's voice in the Sharman-directed The Rocky Horror Picture Show) 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, Kate Ceberano as Mary Magdalene and Angry Anderson as King Herod was created to great critical acclaim. 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, Californiamarker. 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.

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 Atlantamarker, Austinmarker and Seattlemarker. 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 "Lyceummarker 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 Broadwaymarker 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, Carl Anderson once again as Judas, and Brian Le Vell as King Herod. Bach received mixed reviews, while Anderson was again praised. In April 2003, following a disagreement with the director, Bach was fired and 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-famous 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 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 was slated to run through 2007, but audience and critical reception for the show was so great that it lasted until June 2009. Corey Glover, famous for being the lead vocalist of rock band Living Colour, made his national stage debut in the role of Judas. Glover left the show on December 2008 to rejoin Living Colour, and actor James Delisco replaced him as the tour's Judas. Carl Anderson was set to reprise the role before his death.

From November 2007 to January 2008 an Italian production (Compagnia della Rancia) performed a fully translated version of the show around Italymarker.

On the 20th and 21 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 Viennamarker, Austriamarker.

In January 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.

In Boston, popular frontman Gary Cherone of the bands Extreme, Van Halen and Tribe of Judah portrayed Jesus in '94, '96 and '03. He also portrayed Judas in '00. He was praised both for his depth of emotion and impressive vocal delivery.

In 2008-2009 Swedish rock Singer Ola Salo of The Ark translated the lyrics to Swedish and was cast as Jesus at the Malmö Opera in Malmömarker, Sweden.

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, Norway, 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 Japanesemarker version, and the singer Camilo Blanes Cortés aka Camilo Sesto in the 1975 Spanishmarker one. In Germanymarker, the show can be seen every year in different productions by a number of the country's repertory theaters. One of the most recent productions of the show is currently being performed in Oslo, Norway (in Norwegian).

Other recordings and broadcasts

In 1987 the first ever Polish production of Jesus Christ Superstar appeared on stage, starring Marek Piekarczyk as Jesus and Andrzej Sledź 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.

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 February 2006, progressive metal band Vanden Plas covered "Gethsemane" as a bonus track on their album "Christ 0"

In January 2007 Oakwood Collegiate Institute from Toronto, Canada performed it.

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 Israelmarker 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 Broadwaymarker 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.

A second film adaptation was released in 2000, starring Glenn Carter as Jesus, Jérôme Pradon as Judas, Renee Castle as Mary Magdalene 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.On July 31, 2009, Risky Biz Blog reported that Platt has talked to director Marc Webb, who is currently in negotiations to direct the remake.


1972 Tony Award nominations

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


  2. Suffolk Times article on the original Southold High School production.
  3. Robert Stigwood Group Limited v. Sperber, 457 F.2d 50 (2 Cir. 1972)
  4. "Jesus Christ Superstar: A note from Andrew Lloyd Webber"
  5. [Time, November 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."
  6. [Life magazine, May 28, 1971]
  7. "Jesus Christ Superstar", Critically Examined in Light of The Bible - by E. L. Bynum
  8. Free Presbyterian Church - Online Pamphlet
  9. SUPERSTAR' FILM RENEWS DISPUTES: Jewish Groups Say Opening Could Stir Anti-Semitism Reasons Given Company Issues Statement - New York Times
  10. village voice > news > Mel Gibson's Jesus Christ Pose by Jessica Winter
  11. Jesus Christ Superstar: Show facts and figures
  12. 1972 Australian production

External links

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