Flashback Friday: The 2012 revival of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ brought the Bible back to Broadway

Paul Nolan and Chilina Kennedy in "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Paul Nolan as Jesus with Chilina Kennedy as Mary.

People might turn away at the idea of a musical based upon religion, but Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the most successful musicals of our time. It originally opened on Broadway back in 1971 but the most recent Broadway revival starring Josh Young, Chilina Kennedy and Paul Nolan is perhaps on par with the best theatre Broadway has seen so far.

Jesus Christ Superstar has had many incarnations since its initial inception as a concept recording. According to Andrew Lloyd Webber on the Jesus Christ Superstar website, “no one was interested in doing Jesus Christ Superstar on stage when we started.” What a loss for those not involved!

Since composition began in 1969, the original album has reached universal acclaim, worldwide tours have been launched and a film was produced in the 1970s (a second film followed in 2000). However, Jesus Christ Superstar has fulfilled its potential in the glittering 2012 Broadway revival which first opened at the Stratford Festival in Ontario before transferring to the La Jolla Playhouse.  The production subsequently received 11 Broadway World awards, and due to its enormous success, opened on Broadway on March 22 2012.

Josh Young as Judas.

Josh Young as Judas.

What made the production so special was its successful blend of old and new. Jesus Christ Superstar tells the story of the Passion and last week of Jesus’ life on earth. Despite its Biblical setting the score is wild and edgy. Due to this, many productions have tried to modernise it. Des McAnuff’s Jesus Christ Superstar takes place in ancient Jerusalem but adds a touch of modern styling. The ensemble costumes definitely weren’t those of first century Jews, but the costumes for the three leads were definitely inspired by Biblical era clothing. Splashes of bright colour, such as Judas’ signature blue and Mary’s daffodil yellow dress added an exciting flair. Jesus’ flowing white gowns were not to be forgotten and they provided a stark contrast to the LED-banner and projection screens.

McAnuff’s vision presented audiences with perhaps the most emotionally gripping Jesus Christ Superstar yet. The relationship between Jesus, Judas and Mary was especially emphasized, with some audience members even questioning the controversial possibility of Judas’ romantic feelings towards Jesus. Josh Young, who was nominated for the Tony Award for Beast Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Judas, jealously watched interactions between Mary and Jesus, making his later reprise of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” particularly poignant.

The 2012 revival of Jesus Christ Superstar played its final performance on July 1 2012.

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