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.
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.
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.
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.
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, and a filmed release of a live arena rock spectacular version featuring a star-studded lineup and an award-winning creative team in 2012.)
In all, JCS has grossed over $205 million and has been professionally produced in 42 countries around the world.
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.
Live Production-Related Questions
- "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, reenvisioned -- 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.")
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 (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.
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.
(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.
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!
- The rights to JCS in the U.K. (and some of the rest of the world, except as noted below) are handled directly by Andrew Lloyd Webber's company, The Really Useful Group, via their licensing arm Stage A Musical.
- In the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, as of 2017, Webber has started another licensing agency of his own, The Musical Company, which has taken over the licensing for all of his shows and his song catalogue in those regions from any previous licensing agencies you may have heard about. (TMC 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 Dalro.
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 remains a mystery. Rumors run the gamut from the original tapes being lost in a Universal Studios vault fire in 2002, to deliberate destruction, even to having been stolen. Universal have 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 original vinyl release of the soundtrack) because the original master tapes were "missing."
To the extent this is true, that also makes us the bearer of the unfortunate news that if the current audio quality is the best we are going to get, we will probably never hear an actual remastered version of the soundtrack.
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, pick your poison). 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.
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 of all, 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 costs a pretty penny, 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.
As for the actual identity of this mysterious shepherd, one person who is closely connected to the film claimed to more than one fan in the Nineties that he personally felt it was 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, is now backing the "mysterious" version of the story. However, owing to the fact that 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 this person's increasingly spiritual leanings as reflected in interviews and elements of subsequent live productions in which they have appeared, the author of this particular answer is inclined to believe that a) the "shepherd's" appearance was not an unplanned occurrence, be it as a result of the screenplay or this person's ingenuity, and b) if anyone involved in the film was "the shepherd," it was this person.
But this, of course, is only speculation, so we won't go to any trouble to name this person and, by so doing, possibly shame them. The astute JCS fan who reads this will probably know who we mean anyway. 😉 They know what they did (if they did it), it's just 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. 🙂
(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.)
- 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.
- 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 talkbacks with the audience.
- 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.