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Show Guide for Jesus Christ Superstar

Show Guide for Jesus Christ Superstar

Rock rhythm and rollicking choreography paradoxically communicate humble themes of love and acceptance in this Tony-nominated musical.
Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) created a new kind of Jesus, a prophet rock star whose appeal stems as much from the crowd’s energy as from his own inspirational message.

Synopsis

Judas starts to worry about Jesus (“Heaven on Their Minds”). He doesn't believe that Jesus is the Son of God as many others believe, and he is afraid that if Jesus gets too loud, he will draw attention from the Romans, who will then crush him and the apostles. That Friday night in Bethany, the apostles ask Jesus about his plans for the future (“What’s the Buzz?”).

While the apostles pester Jesus, Mary Magdalene comforts him by rubbing his feet and hair in oil. Judas arrives and asks Jesus what he is doing with a woman of Mary Magdalene’s reputation (“Strange Thing Mystifying”). Jesus tells Judas not to throw stones unless his own slate is clean. Mary Magdalene tries to calm Jesus down (“Everything’s Alright”) and soothes him, telling him not to worry. Judas, meanwhile, asks Jesus why good money was used on expensive ointments instead of the poor. Jesus replies that the poor can’t be helped and alludes to his own death, saying that they’ll be lost when he’s gone.

The following Sunday in Jerusalem, High Priest Caiaphas confers with other priests, discussing what to do about Jesus. They conclude that the only way to stop “Jesus-mania” is to execute him (“This Jesus Must Die”).

When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, the crowd is ecstatic (“Hosanna”). Simon tries to persuade Jesus that he can sway the people of Jerusalem to arm against Rome (“Simon Zealotes”). Jesus answers that no one understands what true power or glory is, and that to conquer death, one must die (“Poor Jerusalem”).

The next day, Pontius Pilate dreams about his role in Jesus’ death (“Pilate’s Dream”). Jesus arrives at the temple in Jerusalem to find it a haven for moneylenders and merchants. He chases them out in anger (“The Temple”). He is then surrounded by lepers and the poor, who beg to be healed, and Jesus yells at them to heal themselves. Mary Magdalene tries to comfort him again, and, after Jesus is asleep, she tries to decide how to deal with her love for him (“I Don’t Know How to Love Him”). Judas goes to talk with Caiaphas (“Damned for All Time”) and tells the priests where to find Jesus on Thursday night (“Blood Money”).

On Thursday night in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is performing the Last Supper (“The Last Supper”). The apostles discuss how they’re glad to be where they are now, while Jesus suffers from doubt. He announces that Peter will deny him and another of his 12 chosen will betray him. Judas leaves, and the other apostles go to sleep. Jesus stays awake and prays (“Gethsemane”). He wants to know why he must die and go through with his Father’s plan.

Judas arrives and betrays Jesus with a kiss (“The Arrest”). Caiaphas asks if Jesus is the Son of God, and Jesus answers that he that is what others say he is. Peter denies he ever knew Jesus to three people (“Peter’s Denial”). Jesus is taken to Pilate, who sends him off to Herod, since Jesus comes from Galilee and is therefore not under Pilate’s jurisdiction (“Pilate and Christ”).

King Herod asks Jesus to perform miracles to prove that he is the Son of God; if he does, Herod will release him (“King Herod’s Song”). Jesus refuses, and he is sent back to Pilate. Judas sees the bruised and beaten Jesus and wonders how he could have done such a thing to Jesus. He hangs himself, saying that Jesus has murdered him. Pilate tries to help Jesus and attempts to sate the crowd’s cry for crucifixion with 39 lashes (“Trial Before Pilate”). But the crowd still clamors for Jesus’ death, and he is sent to be crucified. The voice of Judas is heard as Jesus carries his cross (“Superstar”). He wonders why Jesus chose the particular time and place that he did, and why he chose to sacrifice himself for others. Jesus is nailed to the cross (“The Crucifixion”). He dies and his body is then taken to a tomb (“John 19:41”).

From Record to Stage

Jesus Christ Superstar is a play with a unique genesis. It was originally a record and put emphasis on musicality over plot and staging. For this original incarnation of Jesus Christ Superstar, the title role was sung by Ian Gillan, the singer for the band Deep Purple. The album also features a distinctly rock sound provided by rock session musicians, such as guitarists Neil Hubbard and Chris Spedding, bassist Alan Spenner and drummer Bruce Rowland. Both “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” and “Superstar” became big hits.

By 1971, unauthorized stagings of the musical were being put on across the country, so many that the authors took court action to shut down hundreds of productions before the official premiere. The first sanctioned US production was performed by students Southold High School in New York in 1971. The Broadway production debuted in October of 1971, where it ran for 18 months. The West End production of Superstar opened in 1972. The show ran for 8 years, making it the United Kingdom’s longest-running musical at the time. It still holds the title of fifth longest-running UK musical. The first Broadway musical to have started as a concept album, Jesus Christ Superstar remains an innovative work of drama and music.

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber composed 15 musicals, including The Likes of Us, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, The Phantom of the Opera and The Woman in White. He composed the film scores of Gumshoe and The Odessa File, and a setting of the Latin requiem mass for which he won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition.

Lloyd Webber has also produced the Olivier award-winning plays La Bête and Daisy Pulls It Off, both on Broadway and in the West End. In London he presented the groundbreaking A.R. Rahman musical Bombay Dreams in 2002. In 2004, he produced a film version of The Phantom of the Opera directed by Joel Schumacher.

His awards include seven Tonys, three Grammys including Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Requiem, six Oliviers, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, an International Emmy, the Praemium Imperiale and the Richard Rodgers Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre. Knighted in 1992, he became an honorary life peer in 1997.

Tim Rice

Tim Rice began his professional life with the intention of being a solicitor, but very soon wound up working for EMI Records. Shortly after, Rice met Andrew Lloyd Webber. The two began a collaboration that produced the works that both are best known for – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.

Rice later collaborated with Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus (from the pop group ABBA) on
Chess. He has also worked for Disney on projects with Alan Menken (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast for the stage, King David) and Elton John (The Lion King, Aida). In recognition of this work in film and theater, Rice was inducted as a Disney Legend in March 2002. Rice has contributed soundtrack songs for projects as diverse as a James Bond movie to a song for the children's film Stuart Little.

Rice’s accolades include 12 Ivor Novello awards, four Tonys, and three Oscars. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999. Rice was knighted in 1994.

Ted Neeley

Ted Neeley starred in the title role of the 1973 film Jesus Christ Superstar, which earned him Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Newcomer. Neeley originally auditioned for the role of Judas on Broadway but was cast as a reporter and leper in the chorus. Later, his role as the Christ understudy in the US touring production led to Neeley permanently taking on the role.

Twenty years after first playing Jesus, Neeley reprised his role with touring company of Jesus Christ Superstar. This modernized 1990s version of the original production included a Day-Glo temple scene and a glass crucifixion cross that elevated above the stage and was lit from within. Originally planned as a three-month tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the motion picture, the “A.D. Tour” went on to become the longest running revival in North American theater history. From 1992 to 1997, the successful tour crossed the nation multiple times, allowing Neeley the opportunity to reprise his role for over 1,700 shows. Neeley returned to the starring role of Jesus Christ Superstar in the 2006 national tour.


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