“Jesus” continues to Occupy Broadway — but his tenure may be coming to an end in the next few weeks. Decades after it first arrived on the scene, the popular rock opera ”Jesus Christ Superstar“ offers those with a penchant for music and theology an intriguing opportunity to sit back and enjoy some fascinating beats that accompany a slightly-altered gospel storyline.
The play, which first reached Broadway stages in 1971, has been enjoying a showing at New York City’s Neil Simon Theater since earlier this year. But news that it could be closing up shop in the coming days will likely come as a disappointing surprise to some theater-goers.
Like many other works of art, the show comes with a fair share of controversy. But regardless of where one stands on the storyline, “Jesus Christ Superstar” offers bright lights, booming sounds, exciting beats and an entertaining experience. The official synopsis provides a helpful overview:
Judas Iscariot is anxious: his spiritual leader, Jesus Christ, has developed a fervent religious following in Nazareth. With the Jewish territories under an oppressive Roman regime, Judas fears that the people’s zealotry will provoke a violent conflict between the two nations. Judas’ worries are well-founded: a group of Pharisees and priests soon meet with the high priests Caiaphas and Annas to express their concern about the man whom the people now call their king. Fearing that their subjects will revolt, the Pharisees decide that Jesus must die.
Professing his wish to protect the Jewish people from bloodshed, Judas betrays Christ to Caiaphas and Annas. Jesus already knows his fate, and at the Last Supper he confronts Judas in private and tells him to go fetch his captors. Jesus stays awake that night, waiting alone for morning. Judas soon leads Caiaphas and Annas to Jesus, whom they arrest and take to the Prefect, Pontius Pilate, for sentencing. Even at Pilate’s urging, Jesus refuses to defend himself, claiming that his fate already has been determined. Washing his hands of responsibility for Jesus’ death, Pilate orders that he be crucified.
In sum, the rock opera represents a very loose interpretation of Christ’s activities during the last week of his life. The show, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Tim Rice, provides a recap — through a heavily-artistic interpretation — of the events that led to Jesus’ death. As can be expected, one of the final scenes shows Jesus on the cross, as he suffers at the hands of the people who sought to have his life terminated.
What is, perhaps, most surprising about the show is the virtual non-existence of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Considering her importance in the Christian tradition, the lack of a presence in “Jesus Christ Superstar” is curious. However, so are some of the other attributes, including: A less than stellar push to show Christ’s divinity, some odd conversations between Judas and Christ and some of Mary Magdelene’s overt, potentially over-the-top fawning over the Christian savior, among other examples.
Jesus is played by actor Paul Nolan, who has appeared in various stage plays and television and film projects and Mary Magdelene is portrayed by Chilina Kenneda (a complete cast list with bios can be found here).
Theatre fans wishing to see the show may need to act fast as Broadway.com is reporting that it is set for a permanent curtain call:
On June 20, producers announced that unless business improved, July 1 would be the last performance. Producers have not released tickets past the 3 PM matinee on July 1, and the official website for the revival states that this will be the final week of performances.
You can get more information about “Jesus Christ Superstar” here. What do you think? Based on what you know, do you see the show as sacrilegious and anti-Christian — or simply an entertaining take on the gospels? Take the poll: