John Sparger as Jesus in New Line's "Jesus Christ Superstar," 2006

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

In June 2006, New Line presented an all new, more intimate, more contemporary, more political take on one of the greatest of all rock operas, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's thrilling, ambitious JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. New Line's production allowed audiences to see and understand this story like never before, up close and personal in our in-the-round staging, and returning at long last to Rice and Lloyd Webber's original intentions for the piece. This is not a religious story (as lyricist Tim Rice has said in many, many interviews) and it's not a story about Christ's suffering or whether or not he was divine (Rice did not believe he was). This is a story, told from Judas' point of view, about Jesus as a subversive political activist and the brutal and terrified response of the authorities...

This is the musical that rocked the world, that prompted boycotts, picketing, bomb threats, and letter writing campaigns all over America, the musical that dared to recount the "Greatest Story Ever Told" in the earthiest, most democratic, most populist language of all -- rock and roll. The kick-ass score features classics like "Superstar," "I Don't Know How to Love Him," "Everything's Alright," and "Heaven On Their Minds."

New Line did something very special with this show -- the two actors playing Jesus and Judas (John Sparger, Khnemu Menu-Ra) swapped roles each week of the run, allowing them to play both sides of that remarkable relationship, and to give the cast and the audience two equally valid ways to see these two powerful characters.

The New Line cast included John Sparger (Judas/Jesus), Khnemu Menu-Ra (Judas/Jesus), Kimi Short (Mary), Aaron Allen, Sarah Armstrong, Kiné Brown, Christopher “Zany” Clark, Kevin Collier, Joy Ducree, Joseph Garner, Charles Glenn, Alison Helmer, Ember Hyde, Adam Leong, Uchenna Ogu, B.C. Stands, and Scott Tripp. The show was directed by Scott Miller with choreography by Robin Michelle Berger and fight choreography by Nick Kelly, and with a set by Todd Schaefer, costumes by Thom Crain, and sound and lighting design by Florian Staab.

See Charles Glenn's brilliant star turn as a very different kind of King Herod...

Superstar focuses on Jesus' role as political activist and challenger of the religious and political status quo, with clear parallels to the hippie movements of the 1960s and the growing political unrest in America  today. Just as it was when the show first premiered, many Americans in 2006 are moving away from organized religion and toward more personal spirituality and philosophy. In the early 1970s, American youth saw that mainstream religions had reduced religious experience, the act of living through faith, to nothing more than symbols and metaphors, subverting and short-circuiting the personal religious experience itself. They believed that mainstream religious traditions and rituals got in the way of true faith and the search for ultimate truths. The same thing is happening today, as church attendance decreases in America and more and more Americans search for something more.  Today, Superstar doesn't seem as controversial because too many productions have shoehorned religion back into the show against its creators' wishes. And today the show might seem positively mainstream in its use of rock and roll, which is now the music of adults. But imagine the uproar if the Catholic church began allowing gangsta rap as part of the liturgy. It was a very ballsy choice at the time... 

 

New Line's Superstar


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to explore more? We recommend:

The original studio cast album of Jesus Christ Superstar or the amazing 1994 alternative rock Jesus Christ Superstar - A Resurrection, with Amy Ray (of the Indigo Girls) as Jesus

The 1973 film on videotape or DVD OR the new "definitive" version on videotape or DVD

Director Scott Miller's background notes and analysis, newly expanded, updated and revised from a chapter in his book From Assassins to West Side Story

The website FaithfulAmerica.org -- the kind of grassroots political organization that the Jesus of Jesus Christ Superstar would be a part of...

The UMKC Law School's webpages The Trial of Jesus, and profiles of Pilate and Caiaphas,

The books The Politics of Jesus and Misquoting Jesus, as well as the book Jesus Acted Up by Robert Goss, examining Jesus' life as a political activist

A History of Political Theatre webpage

The book Rock Opera; The Creation of Jesus Christ Superstar, from Record Album to Broadway Show and Motion Picture

The "ultimate" Superstar website and a very cool fan site

The official Andrew Lloyd Webber website and the official Tim Rice website

25 different CDs of Jesus Christ Superstar from Amazon.com or check out the list from Footlight Records with even more foreign recordings

The CD The Tim Rice Collection: Stage and Screen Classics

The Jesus of the Week website and the Jesus Christ Superstore

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