Welcome to our FAQ. Below is a list of some questions we have been frequently asked over the years, which we will try to answer as best we can. If you have a question that’s not already listed, feel free to contact us, and, if we think it’s suited for the FAQ, we’ll add it to our database as soon as possible. We also like to keep the information provided here as up to date as possible, so expect regular revisions.
FAQ is a commonly used acronym on the Internet, and it stands for Frequently Asked Questions. An FAQ is any document that lists common questions about a particular subject and provides answers, so that places where people with common interests meet won’t be cluttered with the same general questions and answers.
(All references to names in the answer below correspond to usernames on the forum.)
Most of this FAQ was compiled by grabaham, an entertainment producer in his own right and a long-time fan. He is responsible for most of the content in this FAQ, including errors, omissions, typos, and other goofs. All comments, corrections, additions, and other feedback should be sent to the site via the Contact form in the Nav.Bar above. However, he did have help, encouragement, comments, input, feedback, questions that were included in this or previous editions, or suggestions from his fellow site administrators, Jay and Sthunderrocker, and the many members of the JCS Zone forum (to name two, particular credit with regard to questions about the 1992 Australian revival should be given to ozmark and Carcuss), along with a few other folks who were probably inadvertently left out (or who just never gave a name), for which the author profusely apologizes right now.
This particular FAQ was put together to answer many common questions about Jesus Christ Superstar (or JCS, for short) and its various iterations (recordings, stage, screen), and also to give some idea of just how extensive the entire JCS fan phenomenon is. And we put it together, if we’re being honest, because a number of questions come up quite often that we’re tired of answering; this is to be expected, as new fans often don’t know a lot about some aspects of JCS. So we wrote this FAQ partly to educate people, and partly so we wouldn’t have to write the same answers to the same questions over and over again.
The most important things to note are the following: the FAQ is divided into several sections in an effort to sort the questions into some sort of logical categories, and thus make them easier to find. So when looking for a particular question, you may want to check the category that sounds like it’s closest to what you are looking for. Also, understand that this FAQ does not cover every single aspect of JCS, but only hits some of the highlights; while not wishing to be too narrow in scope or assume that the reader is already familiar with many aspects of JCS, we also don’t want to concentrate everything on one page. Feel free, if you want more details, to visit all of the other pages in the navigation bar above — if the answer to your question isn’t here, it can probably be found by poking around there.
It’s pretty straightforward: find a section that looks interesting, or might have the question you want answered. If you see your question in the list, click on it, read, and be enlightened. If you don’t see your question, or are just curious, you can always browse through the remaining sections.
Well, then, what would have been the point in writing this FAQ in the first place? We set this up so we wouldn’t have to keep answering the same questions over and over again, and so we can get on with doing other things in our lives. (Though some of us may know people personally who disagree with us, believe it or not, we do have lives outside of JCS and the Internet.) Really, it’s not that tough to find your question, it will only take a little bit of time (much less time than it would take to wait for a reply), and learning how to do research on your own will help you immensely throughout your life. Should you not heed this warning and send an email with a question that has been previously answered, we’re only going to refer you back to the FAQ anyway.
Admittedly, nobody has ever actually asked this question, but it’s pretty clear from the way it’s phrased that this is what some people are actually asking. The answer to this unspoken question is no, because then your teacher won’t know what you did, but what we did, and we will not take away an opportunity for you to learn. Sign up at the forum or join our Facebook group if you need more than what’s answered here; the fans love to discuss JCS, and we’ll be glad to help you as best we can, maybe even point you to specific resources, but the actual work needs to be your own. Please understand that our time is limited and we can’t drop everything for you if we don’t have the time. And yes, sticking to a deadline is also part of the learning process, so don’t wait until the last minute.
Quite honestly, that depends. Our Australian contributors ozmark and Carcuss would both agree that there have never been no errors (see the specific question about the 1992 Australian revival recording), but since that little snafu, we’ve made every attempt to be as accurate as possible, and others have checked it for errors. We say (hopefully) that they are now very likely few and far between; indeed, in the interest of transparency, a future goal is to eventually cite references to as many of these answers as we can. But, as with all documents of this type, the best advice is to take it with a grain of salt.
By all means, if you think you’ve spotted a mistake, please let us know! We’re only human, and there are sure to be some things we’ve left out, goofed up, or just haven’t updated yet. However, if you are going to report an error, please back it up. We’ve done a lot of research in compiling this site, and have been reading and learning about JCS for many years now. We will stand behind what we say here until we are provided with solid evidence and more information suggesting otherwise. We know many of the original creatives and cast members involved with the show, and they’d be glad to help prove or disprove any long-covered allegations, to the extent that they have knowledge of them (occasionally performers associated with the show have unintentionally perpetuated rumors due to their own lack of knowledge otherwise, but these instances are few and far between). But yes, feel free to use the Contact form to inform us if we’ve made a mistake. However, understand that we have the final say on changes to the FAQ (and the site in general), and we may reject your contributions.
Yes, please. We’d be happy to let you link to our site unconditionally. However, please understand that we do not do formal link exchanges — in other words, we will not automatically link to your page (even if it is about or related to JCS) if you link to ours. While the Internet has some degree of permanence to it, the existence of the Online Archive’s Wayback Machine just goes to prove that, like life, much of the Internet is temporary and ephemeral, and considering all the other things we have to update frequently about this site, a links page is just not on our priorities list. Like, at all.
This FAQ is copyrighted by JCS Zone, and as a result we can say who can use the material and in what way. But we are generous people who feel information does no good if it’s not out there educating people, and so we will give blanket permission for anyone to reprint or reproduce up to five (5) questions and their answers, in whole or in part, in any way, shape, or form other than on the Internet. But to do this, you need to acknowledge our website, http://www.jesuschristsuperstarzone.com, as the source. (If our alternate address, http://www.jesuschristsuperstar.net, suits your purposes more or is less unwieldy, feel free to use that instead.) Though we know this may not always be possible, if it is within one’s ability, we’d also like a copy of whatever the information is appearing in. If you wish to use more of the FAQ than the five questions allowed, please feel free to contact us using the link in the Nav.Bar above. If you wish to use parts of the FAQ for online purposes, we ask that instead of copying it, you link to it instead. This is not at all difficult, and we will be glad to help you do so; feel free to contact us as previously mentioned for details.
Press documents describe it as everything from “a global phenomenon that has wowed audiences for over 40 years” to “a timeless work set against the backdrop of an extraordinary and universally known series of events.” But the simplest answer is best: Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Set in two acts, JCS tells the story of the final seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, seen, unusually, through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. It dramatizes his entry into Jerusalem, the unrest caused by his preaching and popularity, his betrayal by Judas, the trial before Pontius Pilate, and his ultimate crucifixion. The piece is sung-through, with no spoken dialogue.
Quoting his bio from the JCS 50th anniversary U.S. national tour Playbill (bracketed insertion ours):
Andrew Lloyd Webber is the composer of some of the world’s best-known musicals, including Cats, Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Phantom of the Opera (which celebrates its 30th anniversary on Broadway this year), and Sunset Boulevard. When Sunset Boulevard joined School of Rock – The Musical, Cats and Phantom on Broadway in February 2017 he became the only person to equal the record set in 1953 by Rodgers and Hammerstein with four shows running concurrently. As well as The Phantom of the Opera and Cats his productions include the groundbreaking Bombay Dreams which introduced the double Oscar winning Bollywood composer AR Rahman to the Western stage. His awards, both as composer and producer, include seven Tonys, seven Oliviers, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, the Praemium Imperiale, the Richard Rodgers Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre, a BASCA Fellowship, the Kennedy Center Honor and a Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Requiem, his setting of the Latin Requiem mass which contains one of his best known compositions, “Pie Jesu.” He owns seven London theaters including the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the London Palladium. He was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 1992 and created a life peer in 1997. He is passionate about the importance of music in education and the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has become one of Britain’s leading charities supporting the arts and music. In 2016 the Foundation funded a major new national initiative which endowed the American Theatre Wing with a $1.3 million, three-year grant to support theater education opportunities for under-served young people and public schools across the U.S. To mark his 70th birthday his autobiography Unmasked was published by HarperCollins in March .
Quoting his bio from the JCS 50th anniversary U.S. national tour Playbill:
Tim Rice has worked in music, theater and films since 1965 when he met Andrew Lloyd Webber, a fellow struggling songwriter. Rather than pursue Tim’s ambitions to write rock or pop songs they turned their attention to Andrew’s obsession — musical theater. Their first collaboration (lyrics by Tim, music by Andrew) was an unsuccessful show based on the life of Dr. Barnardo, the Victorian philanthropist, The Likes of Us. Their next three works together were much more successful — Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Evita. Tim has also worked with other distinguished popular composers such as Elton John (The Lion King, Aida), Alan Menken (Aladdin, King David, Beauty and the Beast), Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (Chess) and most recently, Stuart Brayson (From Here to Eternity). A new production of From Here to Eternity made its debut at the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre, New York, in June 2016, and played in the Fall of 2017 at the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine. In December 2016 selections from the score were performed at three official events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Further U.S. productions are in the works. In March 2017, two films with new Tim Rice material were released. Disney’s fresh interpretation of Beauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon, features three new songs written with Alan Menken, and the latest Roger Goldby film, Time of Their Lives, starring Joan Collins and Pauline Collins, features “Morty and Me,” a song written with Pete Hobbs, sung by Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Tim is also an executive producer of the latter movie. He formed his own cricket team in 1973 and was President of MCC in 2002. He is a regular broadcaster/presenter on BBC Radio 2, drawing on his extensive knowledge of the history of popular music since Elvis was a lad. He has won several awards (3 Oscars, 3 Tonys, 3 Golden Globes, 5 Grammys, 13 Ivor Novello Awards, Hollywood Walk of Fame etc.), mainly for the wrong thing or for simply turning up.
JCS began its life as a concept album which featured renowned rock vocalist and Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan voicing the part of Jesus, platinum selling solo artist Murray Head as Judas Iscariot and the inimitable Yvonne Elliman in the role of Mary Magdalene. Originally released in 1970, the album achieved huge global fame, most notably in the U.S. where it went to #1 on the Billboard Album Chart (a feat it repeated thrice), keeping other seminal records by George Harrison and Led Zeppelin off the top spot and going on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide. It was the first musical by Webber and Rice to be produced for the professional stage and first came to major theatres when it debuted on Broadway in October 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York. Less than 12 months after the Broadway show opened, the rock spectacle went to London, exploding onto the West End at the Palace Theatre in August 1972 in a hugely successful production. By 1980, after 3,358 performances, JCS had become the longest running musical in West End history at the time and grossed $12.3 million. In 1973, Academy Award winning director Norman Jewison directed the motion picture version, shot on location in Israel. Released by Universal Pictures, it was nominated for two Oscars and six Golden Globes, won a BAFTA, and grossed $13.2 million at the box office. (This would later be followed by a filmed stage version shot at Pinewood Studios in 2000 which won an International Emmy Award, a filmed release of a live arena rock spectacular version featuring a star-studded lineup and an award-winning creative team in 2012, and a live American television broadcast with a similar pedigree to the arena tour in 2018.) In all, JCS has grossed over $205 million and has been professionally produced in 42 countries around the world.
At last count, JCS has been translated (or adapted for foreign production) into Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican (two variations), Polish, Portuguese, Russian (four variations), Spanish, and Swedish. If you know of any other foreign translations/adaptations, please drop us a line, and we will include them here!
The title song, “Superstar,” kicked off the songwriting process for the album, and was the first recorded material from the project to be released (as a single in late fall/early winter 1969). According to Tim Rice’s autobiography, “we only really began to get into the writing of the final ninety-five per cent of the album by January 1970.” Other bits and pieces followed later; they will be elaborated on elsewhere in the FAQ.
While we cannot speak for Webber, who has always deferred to a stock answer relating to Rice’s fascination with a particularly inspiring Bob Dylan lyric (more about that on the Discography page for the concept album), Rice stated the following in his autobiography: “…my idea to do a contemporary musical about Jesus Christ […] was something I had on occasion thought about over the years. […] From a very young age I had wondered what I might have done in the situations in which Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot found themselves. How were they to know Jesus would be accorded divine status by millions and that they would as a result be condemned down the ages? Surely Judas was acting quite reasonably in seeing his contemporary and leader as nothing more than a man? Surely certain political considerations should be balanced against speculative spiritual ones? Not wildly original thoughts, but they had not to my knowledge been put over in any recent popular art form, with or without music. I had kidded myself for years that one day I would write a book, or a play, about the death of Jesus from Judas’ point of view. Once involved in musical theatre, I actually had a plausible outlet for this idea.”
Design choices (which depend on a director’s concept for a given production aesthetic) aside, JCS was — and is — intended to take place during the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ in Roman occupied Jerusalem and environs, and to explore the personal relationships and struggles between Jesus, Judas, Mary Magdalene, his disciples/followers, and the Roman Empire.
The authors have said over the years that they were careful never to commit fully to one POV or the other when writing the show, and that they wished to leave the question open to the audience. However, it should also be noted that this didn’t stop Tim Rice from being quoted at one point as having said, “It happens that we don’t see Christ as God, but simply the right man, at the right time, at the right place.” It also helps to remember that this show is seen from the viewpoint of Judas Iscariot, and in the show’s first song, he says rather explicitly that he (speaking only for himself) does not believe Jesus is the Son of God. This should offer a clear context and road map for the story one is about to see.
Tim Rice puts it best in his autobiography: “As the apostle who betrayed Jesus is given extraordinarily scant attention in the Gospels, bearing in mind his crucial role in the founding of Christianity, we would be able to put words into Judas’ mouth without fear of being scripturally inaccurate. […] The first song of what we imagined was nothing more than one scene of a theatrical production was to be a tirade for Judas. […] I found it very easy to write. I knew exactly the sort of questions I wanted Judas to ask, and by setting it in the twentieth century rather than in the first, the questions struck a strong contemporary chord. We had no idea at this stage how the song would fit into the completed show, but it was obvious it would be sung by a Judas who had somehow come back from the dead with two thousand years of hindsight.”
The Broadway show and subsequent productions, including the film, were condemned by some religious groups for various reasons. Fundamentalist Christians consider the character of Judas to have been treated too sympathetically, have deemed the character’s criticisms of Jesus to be offensive, and have taken issue with Tim Rice’s general approach to the story, which included an ending that excludes the Resurrection (the title of “John 19:41” is a specific reference to a Bible verse which records Jesus’ burial in a tomb; this, however, has not stopped many productions from including scenes which range from hinting at to strongly suggesting the Resurrection). In some territories, such as South Africa, this has led to the show being banned as it is deemed “irreligious.” Ultimately, blasphemy and sacrilege — or the opposites thereof — is in the eye of the beholder, but there are some points in its favor (see the next question).
A close examination of JCS in comparison with the source events as recorded in the Bible (such as this scene-by-scene guide by the Bible Films Blog) shows that, as is fairly standard for most fictional portrayals of the life of Christ, the various gospels are harmonized into one telling. JCS‘ musical numbers dramatize events and teachings from the Bible loosely but not inaccurately, the sole exceptions being changes for artistic license (e.g., exploring the motivations of Judas and Mary Magdalene in fuller depth and combining a number of characters to simplify things, such as re-assigning a dream warning Pilate about Jesus from his wife to Pilate himself). What JCS offers, in our admittedly biased opinion, is the chance to any who might take it to humanize the story in its entirety. Pilate was a person, with conflicts and reservations; Mary was a person with desires, both emotional and sexual; Peter was a person, with regrets and hope. Tim Rice takes these cardboard cut-outs from the Bible and infuses them with psychological motivation, with flesh and blood, with life. He puts the stakes back in the story, which is no different from what clergy across America do every Sunday morning.
Many Jewish groups say that the show’s portrayal of events bolsters the anti-Semitic claim that the Jews are solely responsible for Jesus’ death by showing most of the villains as Jewish (Caiaphas and the other priests, for example, who come off to some as the only one-note figures in the original album and stage versions) and showing the crowd in Jerusalem unanimously calling for the crucifixion. This is a harder charge to deny; aside from the opening few songs, JCS is a Passion Play set to music, and as such, while Webber and Rice undoubtedly did not set out to tell an anti-Semitic story, the conventions of musical theater unfortunately wind up placing the portrayal of the “villains” squarely in the old-fashioned, all-too-familiar “Christ-killer” territory. How much of that is due to ingrained anti-Semitism in the story thanks to the original gospel texts is up to the viewer (or listener) to decide. However, productions which incorporate a song added for the 1973 film, “Then We Are Decided,” a number which particularizes Caiaphas and Annas’ specific motivations in a way that is hand-waved elsewhere in the show, go a long way toward leveling the playing field and treating Caiaphas and Annas as three-dimensional figures like the other characters in the show. For the purposes of the story they are (technically) the antagonists, but it is far more interesting — and truthful — to watch human beings struggle with a decision than it is to watch comic book villains verbalize what their purpose is.
This question has arisen largely due to the fact that people of color have frequently been cast in leading roles (such as Judas and Mary Magdalene) over the years, leading to speculation about the authors’ intentions and whether this casting was designed to deliberately play into negative racial stereotypes. The answer is no; as Tim Rice once put it in an interview, “…there was no intention on our part to have any racial definitions or rules about who played what,” and indeed roles have been played by various performers of different races, creeds, etc., throughout the years. Talent is usually — as it should be — the determining factor in casting.
The most comprehensive book to date is Rock Opera: The Creation of Jesus Christ Superstar From Record Album to Broadway Show and Motion Picture, by Ellis Nassour and Richard Broderick. The book is sadly out of print, but you can still find used copies on Amazon.com. (Excerpts from the book will soon be available in JCS Zone’s forthcoming Library section; a link will appear when it is online.) Additionally, in 1996, during the period surrounding the West End revival at the Lyceum Theatre, a companion book, with a working title of Jesus Christ Superstar: The Authorized Version, was devised by George Perry, creator of similar companion books for previous Webber productions such as The Phantom of the Opera. Though links to purchase it can be found on Amazon.com, the book was reportedly never actually published due to copyright issues.
No, never. According to a 2006 interview with Charlie Steffens for KNAC.com, however, Ian was offered the lead role in the ensuing stage and film adaptations and declined: “I went to the studio and I was talking to the film director. Tim Rice wanted me to be in the movie and also in the stage stuff. But they wanted me for 12 weeks in Israel, where they were going to shoot the movie, and I was with Deep Purple then. It was no contest, really. So I declined the movie and I declined the stage show, because Purple was the best thing that ever happened to me. That was it.”
A cursory glance at Vaughan’s biography suggests that his music career did not begin until he moved to Austin, Texas at the age of 17; Vaughan would have been 16 at the time of recording. As talented as Vaughan was, it is highly unlikely that he was in England at the time gigging as a session musician. Therefore we can say safely say that, as far as we know, there is no connection between Stevie Ray Vaughan and JCS; the guitarist credited as “Steve Vaughan” is most likely someone else with a similar name.
According to our research, not only did the original concept recording never receive such a release, but we have been unable to locate any Quadrophonic version of JCS on the market, nor does it appear there has ever been one available. The closest we’ve come is finding an electronic cover of the title track “Superstar” featured on John Keating’s 1972 album Space Experience, which was released as a Quadrophonic vinyl.
When any show is a hit, a lot of people will be quick to capitalize on the show’s success. In this case, JCS was one of the first albums of its kind, and everyone wanted their own slice of the pie where the Webber and Rice Passion was concerned. At this time, many “budget” labels, famous for releasing low cost sound alike albums, “knock-off” recordings capitalizing on shows, songs, or albums that became hits, jumped into the fray. Over time, albums like these, which no longer can be accurately described as simple cash-grabs, have come to be labeled as “studio recordings.” Likewise, the definition has stretched to some degree. Albums like these are now defined as albums in which the performers are not an actual ensemble that performed JCS (or may have had some live experience with the show but never all at the same time), but instead a group of vocalists who recorded the songs, and that is it. Usually, these recordings are very cheaply put together and produced, and priced to own. Finally, and of course this is a matter of opinion, since the performers on these studio recordings lack the experience of getting on a stage and actually performing the show in front of an audience, some believe the performances are pleasant enough, but not always up to par with a real cast album.
First rule of Fight Club: you don’t talk about Fight Club. Check the JCS Zone Forum. The answers lie within for qualified members.
Live Production-Related Questions
The original score to JCS as recorded ran so short by theater standards of the time that one of the first things discussed when preparing the show for its initial theatrical incarnation was where they could add material to pad things out a bit. How that ultimately shook down follows:
- “Hosanna” grew a second verse (for Jesus) and chorus in the original London production in 1972. To quote Tim Rice’s autobiography, these insertions were designed to “make a little more of [Jesus’] moment of triumph, and to prolong the choreographic possibilities of the scene.”
- In the 1971 Broadway production, and every subsequent production, it was decided to make the straightforward addition of a new song for Mary Magdalene, who disappeared completely after half-time on the record. The result was a duet between Mary and Peter entitled “Could We Start Again Please,” in which two of those who loved Jesus the most wish hopelessly that the clock could be turned back. It is positioned in the licensed version after “King Herod’s Song” and before “Judas’s Death,” as a respite from the heavy drama of the second act; however, some productions have experimented with other positions. Noteworthy examples include the 1992 Australian revival which grafted it onto the “Peter’s Denial” scene, and a Dutch production in 2005 which intermingled the number with the thirty-nine lashes in the “Trial By Pilate” sequence.
- Speaking of said sequence, it was first doubled in length in the 1971 pre-Broadway concert tour (extant reviews make mention of it), to provide more interplay between Pilate, Jesus, and the mob, and give more of a sense of Pilate’s struggle with the decision to condemn Jesus to death.
Lyrics and orchestrations alike underwent a major revision coinciding with the first major West End revival which played the Lyceum Theatre starting in 1996. Webber (and frequent co-orchestrator/arranger David Cullen) touched up — and, in a few cases, re-envisioned — the old charts, and Rice changed a few lyrics here and there to clarify thought or achieve a better rhyme. The orchestrations stuck around and became the basis for the currently licensed version, but most of Rice’s new lyrics (though some remain) have been discarded in favor of the originals. (As Tim explained it in his autobiography: “Indeed one or two JCS fans complained to me about the changes; for example I altered a priest’s line from ‘One thing I’ll say for him Jesus is cool’ to ‘Infantile sermons the multitude drools’ in order to rhyme with ‘Miracle wonderman, hero of fools,’ and received a letter from a young friend of my son suggesting the entire flavor of that scene, if not the first act, had been lost. Sometimes technique is less important than a visceral approach.”)
The original Broadway cast’s appearance on the Tony Awards, which includes “The Temple” with Jeff Fenholt and Yvonne Elliman’s rendition of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” can be found on YouTube. If any other footage of the production exists, it is not widely available at this time.
Actually, yes, and in both instances it was a live rendition. Why wasn’t it released? Well, there’s a different story attached to the audio and the video. In the case of the live audio recording, it was initially planned for release, but was blocked by a local recording company problem involving trade unions. A live recording of “Could We Start Again Please” intended for the full live album appeared as the B-side of Kate Ceberano’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” single with only a handshake agreement from the cast and company to use this recording. A dispute over royalties ensued and the full live CD recording was shelved as a result.
As for the video, there is no question it exists; a complete video of the final performance in Sydney is now available in trading circles, and, as of October 2020, the full thing can even be found on YouTube. The video may have been filmed for television broadcasting purposes or for commercial release, but exactly which has never been made entirely clear. (Music videos that do not always reflect the actual production were also released during the show’s run as promotional tools, and can be found on YouTube as well.)
It is important at this time to note a grave misconception that has circulated surrounding the cancellation of any release of a full version of the Australian revival that must be put to bed. A rumor once circulated through the fan community (repeated as fact by JCS veteran Danny Zolli in his interview with JCS Zone) that the live recording was quashed because Andrew Lloyd Webber got into legal issues with the production company, reportedly unhappy with the radical changes that musical director David Hirschfelder had made to the score. This is not true; while it is entirely possible Webber had his issues with any liberties the arrangements took (he is notorious for having very specific ideas about how the score should sound), it is nonetheless a matter of record that he approved the Hirschfelder orchestrations for production and recordings at the time, and they were used again a year later in the New Zealand cast.
This question can be read one of two ways: either asking how many official productions there have been in the show’s history, or if there was any official production that toured worldwide rather than restricting itself to a specific geographic region. We have chosen to answer both possibilities here.
Creating a list of officially licensed productions from the 1970s through the present in venues around the world would be a likely futile exercise fit only for archivists. While we are building our website, we will chronicle as many productions as we can, but we cannot possibly claim to know about every single production, professional or otherwise. (For this same reason, specific questions about places where JCS opened in the 1970s — this FAQ used to have a specific question about when and where [as in what venue] JCS first opened in Toronto — are hard to answer. Incidentally, in this particular case, if one is referring to the initial authorized concert tours, it played the Borough of York Stadium in Toronto on August 1, 1971. If one is referring to a fully realized stage rendition, no information on dates or theaters are known for many of the first-run productions. Some educated guesses have been made in the past based on info in the Ellis Nassour book Rock Opera, but inaccuracies have been noted in the book in the past, so it’s anyone’s guess. If forced to commit to a potential date, we’d have to say most likely around the mid-to-late Seventies, when the first touring productions with full sets, costumes, staging, etc., began in North America.)
In the event that the question refers to productions that toured worldwide, as far as we know, there has never been such a production. Most of the successful (or at least widely known) productions have been restricted solely to specific territories, such as the USA and Canada, or the UK and Europe. There have been a few productions credited as the “Broadway Musical Company” or similar wording, featuring primarily American talent, that have toured Europe, but these tours have always been brief and have never played the USA to our knowledge. However, an international tour is not outside the realm of possibility. Prior to his death, Carl Anderson (Judas in the original 1973 film) was in the process of organizing a reunion tour featuring himself, Ted Neeley (Jesus), and other of the film’s stars, which was supposed to tour the globe, culminating in a performance at the Vatican. Sadly, this never came to be.
The short answer is “one never knows what tomorrow may bring.” The longer answer is “maybe, but productions take years to come to fruition, and not always in the form initially announced.” For example, what eventually became the 2012-13 arena tour started off as rumors that Andrew Lloyd Webber was discussing plans for a new UK touring cast to celebrate the show’s 40th anniversary. Lee Mead (of Webber’s reality TV casting show, Any Dream Will Do) was rumored to be one of the leads, and Marianne Elliot had been approached to direct the proposed production in the West End. What eventually resulted was nothing like that, to say the least. Watch this space; as we become aware of any forthcoming productions in this vein, we’ll let you know.
This question has been asked about nearly every popular production of JCS in history (this particular question was originally asked in an early version of the FAQ about Ted Neeley’s “Farewell Tour” in the U.S.). The answer, as with the one directly above, is “maybe” (with the caveat regarding past productions that if a professional video or audio has not been officially released so far, it is unlikely to follow in the future, especially if the production is several decades old).
Film/broadcast or recording rights (which are different from filming or recording for promotional purposes, as Troika Entertainment, which produced the “Farewell Tour,” did) are not automatically granted to the producers of a show, so one would have to work out an arrangement with the authors (and whomever else is a party to previously existing royalty agreements, etc.), both in terms of an initial upfront payment and royalties. One must also work out royalty arrangements with the creative team for use of blocking/staging, choreography, production design, etc., as the work of a creative team on each production is copyrightable. Similar issues arise in terms of salary hikes to the cast (who also may receive royalties), creative team, crew, orchestra, etc. This is unavoidable, and it gets pricey, which is why many productions of many shows don’t get recorded or filmed. (Put yourself in a producer’s shoes. It’s hard enough to fund a show as it is without throwing in the additional cost of filming a video or recording an album which is probably even less likely to be profitable than the show itself.)
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, however. If a company has previously made CDs or DVDs of their shows available before (in the test case that originally inspired this question, Troika had released CDs before, such as their production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat featuring Patrick Cassidy and American Idol contestant Amy Adams), or a production generates enough popular demand for a recording or filming, then a release is always in the realm of possibility. However, one shouldn’t count on the possibility of release as establishing that the production will definitely be recorded. And, as above, if we know anything about a specific case, we will be the first to tell you!
In order to legally perform JCS, one must first obtain the stage rights. That process works like so: licensing agencies grant the ability to stage performances of Webber’s musicals (and the works of others) to the secondary market (i.e., community theaters, summer stock theaters, dinner theaters, high schools, junior highs, religious institutions, etc.) as well as to first-class presenters (i.e., a Broadway production, or national tour of one). A group interested in staging JCS must fill out an application which affirms that the auditorium has a certain number of seats, that ticket prices will be set at a certain amount, that the show will last a certain number of performances, and that the show will be performed as written to protect the rights of the authors. A royalty is worked out (a percentage paid to the authors through the agency from the money made from ticket sales) from the info provided, and if the presenter agrees, they make a deposit, and are sent the script and the score. After the production, the materials are returned, and the agreed-upon royalty is sent to the agency.
This differs depending upon your territory. The licensing agencies covering most major geographical areas are covered in the list below. Links are to the show’s individual page at each licensor where available.
- As of 2017, the rights to JCS in the U.K. (and some of the rest of the world, except as noted below) are handled directly by The Musical Company, a licensing agency partially owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company, The Really Useful Group, which controls the rights for all of his shows and his song catalogue.
- Since January 2020, all North American customers (the U.S., Canada, Mexico) who used to deal with TMC have been directed to the website of its partner, Concord Theatricals, which will include — and handle — the catalogues of TMC and the other licensing agencies it owns (R&H Theatricals, Samuel French, and Tams-Witmark) for that market going forward. Concord also handles theatrical licensing, music publishing, and cast recording for other authors and composers.
- In Australia and New Zealand, JCS is represented by Origin Theatrical.
- Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are handled by Musik und Bühne.
- The rights in Scandinavia can be obtained from Nordiska ApS.
- And in Africa, one talks to Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (Pty.) Ltd. (DALRO). (As there is no individual JCS page, the full musical catalogue is linked in the interest of confirming you’re speaking to the right people.)
Using the song for the stage used to require a separate negotiation/fee from the stage rights, which may still be the case in some territories. However, in all territories covered by The Musical Company, the performance rights to JCS and the publishing rights to Webber’s song catalogue are under the same roof. It is JCS Zone’s current understanding that, as long as one already has the stage rights, all a presenter needs to do is approach the publishing division separately and negotiate the grand rights for “Then We Are Decided” for use in the show context (TMC’s website in particular makes the process very easy); depending on the circumstances, it might even be used at no extra cost, as was the case with one production we are aware of.
As mentioned above, in addition to the material added for the stage which carried over to the film, one new song was added, “Then We Are Decided,” written specifically for the film. As Tim Rice put it in his autobiography, “…Andrew and I did expand one of the High Priests’ scenes in a futile bid to quash further anti-Semitism charges at the pass.” Because it was written specifically for the film, it has not appeared in many stage productions — a few, but not many.
A good deal of the “rock” or rhythm-oriented tracks were derived, in whole or in part, from the original album, which featured a rock band (and cast) consisting of musicians from Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, Screaming Lord Sutch, Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, The Big Three, Juicy Lucy, The Merseybeats, Gracious, Plastic Penny, and Nucleus. As for any stuff not present on the original album, according to information derived from Norman Jewison’s papers housed at the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, all of the arrangements and orchestrations of a more symphonic nature were done by André Previn, who conducted the 70-piece London Symphony Orchestra as a supplement to the previously recorded material, while the new rhythm tracks (as needed) were performed by a five-piece rock combo incorporating three musicians featured on the original concept album, and of course new vocals from Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, Yvonne Elliman, etc. (See the movie soundtrack’s page in the Discography section for more info.)
Although Ted Neeley refers on the special edition DVD commentary to members of Deep Purple being present in the studio during the recording of the film soundtrack, Deep Purple — to our knowledge — has never been directly connected with JCS, except, of course, for lead vocalist Ian Gillan, who played the role of Jesus on the original concept recording (he would have been in the film, save for the events outlined in the answer to an earlier question).
Ah, we knew this puzzler was coming. For those who lack context, the soundtrack to the 1973 film, at least in cassette, CD, or digital formats (the jury is out as to whether or not the vinyl release sounds different; it was purportedly sourced directly from the film reels, and this choice’s effect on the sound is currently undetermined), flat-out sucks in terms of sound quality.
Peruse the reviews at Amazon, and you’ll see statements from consumers like the following: “The reason I rated this CD so low is that the audio quality is so poor. It really does sound awful. I heard some reviewers claim that it sounds like they are singing down a barrell (sic) and I can say they are not wrong.” Another critic opines: “This is the poorest recording of this production I have ever heard. I can’t believe I spent this much money on it. I would have been musically better off ordering the DVD instead of the MP3. The sound quality is horrible. It sounds muffled and tinny, like it was recorded in a box. It’s pretty bad when the sound quality of the original vinyl, scratches and all is preferable to the sound of a digital recording.” Obviously, the question is what the hell happened in the transfer to digital media. We’ll do our best to answer it, but we fear you may remain as befogged as before.
First of all, back then and even to this day, when a film is made, it is common that the dialogue (or singing, in this case) recorded on set is almost never used in the final product. This is usually a welcome safety net in the event of unwanted background noise; say, for example, that the director got the perfect take on the scene in visual terms, but an airplane flying overhead ruined the sound. No worries — Hollywood has a process called automated dialogue replacement (ADR for short) where they re-dub the voices afterward and get a “clean” recording. Simple enough for a film relying on spoken dialogue, right? But imagine directing a film musical like JCS where everything is sung. Try getting a live take on a song with a lot of people moving around a great deal, using only the overhead “boom” microphone. The distance between the singers and the mic would constantly vary, especially in a dance number; the vocal would “come” and “go” accordingly. Or let’s say your big romantic number is near a waterfall and you’re trying to capture it live. The sound of the waterfall is constantly competing with the voices. Would you want to be at the mercy of these elements? Usually, Hollywood errs on the side of caution and engages in prerecording, and the 1973 film of JCS was no exception. The cast recorded their performances in the studio prior to shooting the actual film, to which they would lip-sync during filming; when they were on set, large speakers would be used to play back the original recordings for the actors to sing along with, giving the visual performance that realistic, “full-on performance” look. Sometimes, if a scene turns out differently from the prerecording due to acting choices or the sync just wasn’t good enough, the actors may be called back in to re-dub certain segments in ADR, something which Kurt Yaghjian (Annas) confirmed was done by almost everybody in the cast, the better to improve the film’s overall quality and realism. (And, to return to the waterfall example, if you have the clean vocal and actually want to hear the realistic background, you can then put the waterfall back in as a sound effect, with the benefit that the filmmaker retains total control over the sound.)
Bearing this in mind, the question now is why the soundtrack (not the literal sound track heard in the film, but the commercially released soundtrack album) sounds so bad in spite of these efforts. It hardly needs repeating that there are unnecessary gaps between tracks (particularly noticeable in the dramatic transitions between “What’s The Buzz” and “Strange Thing, Mystifying,” and the “Trial” and “Superstar”), and at times alternate takes on specific moments (“Not one — not one of you!” at the end of “Strange Thing, Mystifying” comes to mind) are used which some deem weaker than the final product. Aside from these alternate aesthetic choices (stuff like this actually crops up fairly frequently on movie musical soundtracks from the era), even the more charitable fans of the film have said the film album sounds like it was recorded with tin cans and some twine. The mix is wildly inconsistent, and audio issues often result in the music overpowering the vocals. (Compounding the issue is that subsequent releases of the film on DVD and Blu-Ray have sound troubles of their own, oddly enough the opposite problem to that of the soundtrack; those paying close attention, while noting that the film sounds much clearer than its soundtrack album, will also spot that the vocals are cranked higher in the mix compared to the orchestra.)
In the case of a remaster, usually an album subjected to such treatment sounds better, generally from working with the original tapes. Consequently, the supposition that “if remastered editions of the JCS soundtrack are this bad, the original tapes must not be around anymore” has been a popular theory, borne out by a notation in the booklet for the 1993 CD release: “This compact disc contains program transferred from analog tape and therefore may contain some tape hiss and other anomalies that exist with analog recordings.” (This notation, or something similar, was fairly commonly used on CD releases of albums for which the original masters no longer existed and one had to create a dub for CD from other sources.)
Taking the theory at face value, the question of what happened to the soundtrack’s original masters remained a mystery until recently. Rumors ran the gamut from the original tapes being lost in a Universal Studios vault fire, to deliberate destruction, even to having been stolen. Universal never officially confirmed or denied any of these allegations, but according to several sources, when it came time to release the 30th anniversary DVD of the film, the reissue team had to resort to using the original film reels once more (as the label purportedly had with the soundtrack’s original vinyl release) because the original master tapes were “missing.”
Thanks to the research of Frank Munoz, screening tour and live concert promoter for Ted Neeley, who had hoped to set the creation of a proper remaster in motion, it can now be stated with some degree of certainty that assuming the masters do still exist (we rely here on the knowledge of where documentation says they’re supposed to be), they are split between Universal’s storage at Pinewood Studios in London and California, and three reels of them (containing the material from “This Jesus Must Die” through the leper sequence) were unfortunate victims of the much-publicized June 2008 vault fire at Universal. The cost-prohibitive measures of getting the tapes together, preserving them through shipping, and ensuring they survive the treatment that leads to a markedly improved remaster are indeed so cost-prohibitive, and Universal reportedly utterly uninterested in chipping in, that it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever hear an actual remastered version of the soundtrack, or at least anything better than the current audio quality.
Yes, he appeared in the chorus of the original Broadway production, and was credited in the Playbill as a “Leper/Reporter.” He was also Jeff Fenholt’s understudy in the role of Jesus. Following this production, Neeley and Carl Anderson were selected as the leads for a national tour (in which they co-starred with Hair alumnus Heather MacRae), which opened June 28, 1972, at the Universal Studios Amphitheater, a (then-)outdoor venue located on the Universal backlot. Although it opened to mixed reviews, it enjoyed a successful run in Los Angeles throughout the summer. (It was during this run that Neeley and Anderson were cast in the film; the tour, with some replacements, eventually took in Washington, D.C.; Toledo and Columbus, Ohio; St. Louis; Milwaukee; Indianapolis; Boston; Chicago; and Minneapolis.)
Some people have asked what was up with all the anachronisms in the film, though a few have admitted they recognize they are in the minority when they ask. It’s important to note that everything about the 1973 film is strategic, and some of the overt political implications to the film’s choices have blurred with the passage of time. Directors or designers don’t make choices for no reason, unless they’re bad directors or designers. In addition to serving as easily recognizable symbols of occupation and oppression to a generation that had lived through the war in Vietnam, Kent State, etc., the tanks represent the enormity of Judas’ dilemma, his feeling of being pushed toward an outcome he is not really happy with (e.g., the betrayal), and being totally unable to fight it. As for the jets, the screenplay (more about our access to that in the answer to another question) describes them as flying off into the distance and we hear the soft sound of explosions (i.e., they’re bombing the areas they’re flying over). With that context, one can say, “Oh, well, that’s easy. The bomb is dropped. The seeds for destruction have been laid. Judas did it, and now he has to live with it.” But… we don’t hear explosions in the film, at least not the easily discernible sort. So, your guess is as good as ours!
You’d be surprised how often we get this question. First, let us offer a little context: the 1973 film has an overarching framework in which the story is told by a group of young players reenacting JCS in modern times (circa 1973), in the actual setting in which the story took place. The film’s main action is bookended by our performers arriving by bus and unloading all the accoutrements (props, costumes, etc.) that will be used in the course of the film at the beginning, and the same troupe reloading and departing on the bus at the end. Those with keen eyes can spot all of the leads making ready to assume the roles they will portray in the main storyline; those very same viewers will note that the actor playing Jesus does not get on the bus at the end, and may well be curious as to why. To hear Ted Neeley tell it, this was no literal crucifixion of an unsuspecting young actor by his bedraggled hippie comrades, as some have joked (or feared). Rather, this was symbolic in nature; he and Norman Jewison apparently thought it essential that as soon as that young actor stepped off the bus, he “became” Jesus, and because he assumed this role and attempted to assimilate the essence of this being, he would never be getting back on the bus as the same person who exited it. They chose to portray this literally to reinforce the point being made.
This one is another well-told tale in JCS film lore. Sharp-eyed viewers have long noted that right at the end, as the bus jerks away and the actor who played Judas looks off into the sunset, the camera pans to the empty cross, silhouetted in the fading sun. There appears to be some movement across the bottom of the screen, which becomes more clearly discerned as it moves into the line of sunlight as a shepherd walking across the desert, followed by his flock. Over the years, some Christian viewers have chosen to interpret this as symbolic of the Resurrection, and supposed that it was a deliberate artistic choice. However, to hear Ted Neeley (among others) tell it today, “It was not planned and we only knew about it once we saw the reel. […] It was truly unplanned.” (Jewison backed up this line at a Q&A at a recent screening of the film, claiming specifically that a Bedouin wandered onto the set even though it was blocked off and they decided to keep rolling.) Spooky, right? Couldn’t be spookier if it was a line cooked up by a Hollywood publicist…
In truth, there is little mystery about the shepherd’s appearance. First, two separate drafts of the original screenplay have become available to the fan community through scans of copies obtained from eBay and ScriptCity, and both drafts mention not just a shepherd but also other people (not present in the final product, obviously) at the foot of the cross. Secondly, movies made on a Hollywood scale cost a boatload of money, and, as an average day of shooting on location ain’t cheap, if a certain area in which one is shooting is blocked off, you can bet that nobody who isn’t supposed to be there (ruling out potential supernatural origin) will be able to wander through a set unnoticed during a shoot and risk losing a day’s work and running up production costs. In short: it was likely planned.
As for the actual identity of this mysterious shepherd, someone closely connected to the film claimed to more than one fan in the Nineties that he personally felt it important that the film reference the Resurrection in some way, and so he made a point of wandering around with the sheep without the knowledge of Jewison or his crew in hopes it would be used in the final take. This same person, of course, now tells only the “mysterious” version of the story. However, since the shepherd (when viewed either on the big screen or on Blu-Ray in hi-def) is similar in size, build, and movement to this person, and given their increasingly spiritual leanings as reflected in interviews and elements of subsequent live productions in which they’ve appeared, the author of this particular answer is inclined to believe that if anyone involved in the film was “the shepherd,” it was this person.
But this, of course, is only speculation, so we won’t name this person and, by so doing, possibly shatter anyone’s illusions. The astute JCS fan who reads this will probably be able to read between the lines anyway. They know what they did (if they did it), it’s one more layer in a film that is filled with them, and really it doesn’t detract from anything that came before it anyway. Believe what you like.
When the original movie hit cinemas in 1973, it was showed in its original English form in most parts of the world. However, the movie got a French dub when it was released in France the same year. The cast who performed the dub was the original 1972 French cast, including Daniel Beretta as Jesus, Farid Dali as Judas, and Anne-Marie David as Mary. (Bob Bingham, who played Caiaphas in the original Broadway cast and in the film, was also a member of the original French cast, and therefore is the only cast member in the film who performs his own dub. According to Jewison’s papers, Barry Dennen also recorded a Pilate vocal for the French dub, relying on dialect coaching and his memories of high school French, which was ultimately deemed unusable by the person responsible for supervising the dub. The whereabouts of Barry’s track are not known; likely it has either been lost or languishes in a Universal Studios vault.)
Members of the cast have reunited onstage at various times in the show’s history, but never all of them at once.
- In 1976, Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson, and Yvonne Elliman appeared in a production in Santa Barbara, CA, to benefit the California Youth Theatre organization. Ted and Carl would reunite again (with original Broadway Herod Paul Ainsley) a year later in another CYT benefit production.
- In the early Nineties, Carl and Barry Dennen reprised their film roles (opposite Sam Harris as Jesus) in a regional production which toured California.
- Starting in December 1992, Ted and Carl reprised their film roles of Jesus and Judas once more in a North American touring revival, later nicknamed the “A.D.” or “Anniversary” tour. (Co-stars included Dennis DeYoung of Styx as Pilate, and Irene Cara of Fame fame — and later R&B recording artist Syreeta Wright — as Mary.) Originally expected to run for three to four months, the tour ended up running for five years and grossed over $100m.
- Following the tour’s closing in January 1997, the cast — including Ted and Carl — reunited for three concert performances the following year to benefit the Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, CA. (This benefit also included a return appearance from Paul Ainsley.)
- In 2003, Yvonne and Barry appeared in a concert production presented by the UTEP Dinner Theater in tribute to Tim Rice.
- For a very brief period in 2003 before the untimely death of the former, Carl and Barry (this time playing Herod) appeared together in a national tour of JCS which drew stylistically from the 2000 video and the productions which it replicated.
- In 2006, Ted, Yvonne, Barry, and Richard Molinare (an apostle in the film and onstage) reunited in a one-night-only concert performance of JCS (alongside original Broadway Judas Ben Vereen, and stage and screen stars Clint Holmes and Jack Black) to benefit a proposed national expansion of the CYT program, to rave reviews and rapturous audience response.
- Since 2013, the cast — including at various times Ted, Yvonne, Barry, Josh Mostel (Herod), Bob Bingham (Caiaphas), Kurt Yaghjian (Annas), and Larry Marshall (Simon) in select cities — and key creatives, such as director Norman Jewison and choreographer Rob Iscove, have embarked on a U.S./Canadian tour of special in-person anniversary screenings of a new digitally remastered print of the film, incorporating elements such as a Q&A with the audience, a singalong, and a costume contest. This particular venture has led to a direct-to-consumers documentary release, SUPERSTARS: The Making and Reunion of the Film, and — most recently — a “quarantine” Zoom reunion of the film’s original cast, Tim Rice, unit photographer David James, and others which was broadcast to the Internet.
- Following Ted’s joining the Italian/European tour of JCS produced and directed by Massimo Romeo Piparo, Barry and Yvonne reprised their roles opposite him in three Italian cities on the 2014 leg, and appeared as special guests (as part of a post-curtain call tribute to the late Carl Anderson) during the tour’s appearances in early May 2017 at the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam.
Yes, both officially and unofficially. The Santa Barbara run in 1976 was recorded as a keepsake for the cast and circulated through local record stores as well (see the relevant Discography page for more); the 2006 benefit in Hollywood was reportedly professionally filmed and recorded, but owing to issues allegedly stemming from a leaked audience clip of Jack Black’s performance as Herod, release (and possible PBS broadcast) was stonewalled (we’re not holding our breath, and neither should you); and portions of the screening tour Q&A’s, as well as Ted, Yvonne, and Barry’s special tribute to Carl Anderson in May 2017 at the Ahoy in Rotterdam and the recent film cast Zoom reunion, have all popped up on YouTube.