Onstage / JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Quick 6 about JCS coming to Shea's
Through February 16 at Shea’s
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice
1) SYNOPSIS: Jesus Christ Superstar (JCS) is loosely based on the Gospel’s accounts of the last week of Jesus’s life through the eyes of Judas Iscariot, who fears that the compassionate movement with Jesus at its head has become a cult that must be stopped. It depicts political and interpersonal struggles between Judas and Jesus that are not present in the Bible, and ends with the crucifixion (sorry, spoiler!).
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice
2) Like the current Broadway smash Tony winner Hadestown, JCS began as a rock opera concept album in 1970 when composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice couldn’t find anyone interested in producing the show. In the end, the album’s success and appeal to younger audiences helped bolster the ultimate production and is arguably responsible for both the show and album achieving cult status.
3) A staged version of JCS hit Broadway in 1971 but didn’t win any Tonys and wasn’t even nominated for Best Musical; revivals didn’t fare much better. Not surprisingly, Webber is said to have hated the presentation of his work, and called the show a “brash and vulgar interpretation.” It still ran for more than 700 performances.
4) Though JCS came up Tony-less, Lloyd Webber—who had already written Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with lyricist Tim Rice, and would go on to write the music and win Tonys for Evita, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Sunset Boulevard—did pick up a Drama Desk Award for “Most Promising Composer.”
5) The show massively offended religious groups (of course it did!). Billy Graham said it bordered on “blasphemy and sacrilege,” and it was banned in South Africa, among other protests. The Vatican’s radio station, however, aired the album in its entirely.
6) What they said: “I must ... confess to experiencing some disappointment … It all rather resembled one’s first sight of the Empire State Building. Not at all uninteresting, but somewhat unsurprising and of minimal artistic value.”–Clive Barnes, New York Times, 1971