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.
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 US 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 Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim 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, Jesus Christ Superstar 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, and a filmed release of a live arena rock spectacular featuring a star-studded lineup and an award-winning creative team in 2012.)
In all, Jesus Christ Superstar has grossed over $205 million and has been professionally produced in 42 countries around the world!
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, and Sunset Boulevard. His latest musical, the hit stage version of the movie School of Rock, opened on Broadway in December 2015. 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 theatres including the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the London Palladium. He was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 1992 and created an honorary member of the House of Lords 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.
Tim Rice has worked in music, theatre, 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 theatre. 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) and Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson (Chess). His first new show for ten years, From Here To Eternity, with music by newcomer Stuart Brayson, co-produced with Lee Menzies, directed by Tamara Harvey, and with book by Bill Oakes, opened in the West End in 2013. He formed his own cricket team in 1973 and was President of the MCC in 2002. He recently wrote and presented a 52-part series for BBC Radio 2, American Pie, a trawl through the music and musicians of every American state. He has won several awards, mainly for the wrong thing or for simply turning up.
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.
But what does it mean to obtain rights for JCS? What's the process? How does it work? These agencies license 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 Jesus Christ Superstar 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), and if the school agrees, they make a deposit, and are sent the script and the score. After the production, the materials are returned, and the royalty is sent to the agency.
General Production and Recording-Related Questions
Answer 1: Creating a list of officially licensed productions from the 1970s to today in venues throughout 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. However, as addressed in the general category above, it has been produced in over 42 countries globally.
Answer 2: 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.
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 March 2017, 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 at some point (he is notorious for having very specific ideas about how the score should sound), it is 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.
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!