Jesus Christ Superstar

The AWESOME! page has random music stuff that I think is cool. You never know what you will find here!

Happy Easter! Growing up in a Christian family, we celebrated Easter with a focus on how it all started – the death and resurrection of Jesus 2000 years ago. Throughout my teenage years (as well as many many years after that), a big part of the Easter season was listening to the soundtrack of the musical rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. It was the first musical theater show that I ever saw, at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., in 1972. I’ve seen it performed professionally at least three other times, plus the ten or so shows that my daughter’s high school performed in 2009 (with me proudly watching my daughter in the role of Mary Magdalene). Here is some interesting trivia regarding one of my all time favorite musicals.

  • The soundtrack album was released before the stage production. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, the composers were unable to get backing for a stage production, so they released the album as a concept rock opera in October 1970, and the single Superstar was released in October 1969. The album was a huge success – it topped Billboard’s album chart twice in 1971, and it ended 1971 as the #1 album of the year. Due to its success, the musical production followed. It was first performed in Pittsburgh in July 1971, and it opened on Broadway in October that year.
  • It closed on Broadway in 1973 after 711 performances – a decent run, but by no means record setting. Webber himself despised the Broadway production, calling it “a brash and vulgar interpretation” of his work. Reviews were mixed, and both Christian and Jewish groups condemned it, with some Christians calling it blasphemous and some Jews calling it anti-semitic. It received five Tony Award nominations, but it did not win any Tony Awards.
  • It opened in London in 1972 and it was much more successful than the Broadway run. It ran for eight years and it became UK’s longest running musical at the time (passed by Cats in 1989).
  • A film version of the show was released in 1973. It was filmed primarily in Israel as a location-based production, with a live-action style. A second adaptation was filmed in 1999, staged in a style similar to the 1971 musical theater version, but with some musical and performance updates. A televised live concert version was staged in 2018, shown on NBC television. This version had some notable vocalists in key roles – John Legend as Jesus, Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene and Alice Cooper as King Herod. Legend, Webber and Rice all received Emmy Awards for Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert. With those awards, all three achieved EGOT status – winners of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award.
  • A 50th anniversary tour began in 2019, and after getting derailed by COVID in 2020, it continues to be performed in 2023.
  • Seventeen-year-old John Travolta auditioned for the role of Jesus in the 1973 film. Producer Robert Stigwood chose Ted Neeley instead for the role, but Stigwood remembered Travolta – Stigwood cast Travolta three years later in Saturday Night Fever. Neeley went on to make a career of performing as Jesus – he played the role over a thousand times over a 50 year career.

There are so many great scenes in this show, and the music is fabulous. I still can sing every word from the 90 minute show. My favorite – the first song with vocals early in the production, Judas singing Heaven On Their Minds. Here’s a clip from a 2012 tour of the show, with Tim Minchin performing the role of Judas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *