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Cover to librettoJesus Christ Superstar

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Tim Rice

Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York 12 October, 1971 (711 perfs)
Palace Theatre, London 9 August, 1972 (3358 perfs)

Synopsis

Jesus Christ Superstar traces the last seven days of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. Judas fears that the compassionate movement with Jesus at its head has become a personality cult with many of Jesus' statements being taken up and twisted by his followers. Jesus must be stopped! Jesus is regularly ministered to by a street woman, Mary Magdalen but what is worse, he is being hailed as the Messiah. Judas meets with the Priests of Judaea and resulting from the meeting agrees to betray Jesus for which he will receive 30 pieces of silver in payment. Meanwhile, Jesus preaches throughout the land offering riches in the after-life - but not here on earth.

Pontius Pilate, a Roman Officer, dreams of a strange Galilean whose path will cross his own and cause Pilate to be despised. Jesus throws out the traders in the Temple and has a last supper with his followers when he lets Judas know he is aware of the coming betrayal. At Gethsemane, Jesus prays for strength for the coming ordeal but also for the deliverance that he knows is not possible.

When Judas brings the soldiers to Gethsemane Jesus does not resist arrest. When he is brought before Pilate, he is recognised as the subject of Pilate's own dreams. Pilate refuses to convict him and send Jesus to Herod. Judas, meanwhile, has committed suicide by hanging himself.

Back in Pilate's court, Herod, too, has refused to convict Jesus, but the rabble insists. Jesus is convicted and crucified.

Songs:

The Arrest
Could We Start Again Please?
The Crucifixion
Damned For All Time
Everything's All Right
Gethsemane
Heaven On Their Minds
Hosanna
I Don't Know How To Love Him
John 19:41
King Herod's Song
Strange Thing Mystifying
Superstar
This Jesus Must Die
What's the Buzz

Instrumentation:

Electric guitar/acoustic guitar, electric bass guitar, piano/organ, drums/percussion, bandstration, trumpet I, II, trombone, French horn, flute/piccolo, flute/clarinet, oboe, bassoon, violin I, II, cello, viola.

Cast:

40 roles (doubling of parts is written), 6 principals

Judas, Jesus, Mary Magdelene, Caiaphas, Annus, and Pontius Pilate, singers who act. The part of Judas has traditionally been played by a black, which has been a source of controversy. There are also various Palm Sunday attendants, members of the crowd, and mob. Total cast 50 - 70.

Scenes and sets:

2 acts, continuous action.

Large unitized playing area in which major set pieces flow in and out. The original production used surrealistic bridges and shapes carried by actors. The Crucifixion set was a giant aerial set that looked like a butterfly; it elevated Christ garbed in a 20-foot robe that created a tentlike effect. Instead of a cross, there was a triangular cutout area in the backdrop that was back-lit to create an interesting effect. The segments are:

Scene l: Friday Night, Bethany
Scene 2: Sunday, Jerusalem
Scene 3: Monday, Pontius Pilate's House
Scene 4: Tuesday, The Plot
Scene 5: Thursday Night, The Last Supper/ The Garden
Scene 6: Friday, Pilate's Palace/ House of Herod/ Pilate's Palace/ Golgotha

Period and Costumes:

The time of Christ. A variety of male and female robes ranging from peasant garb to nicer plain cloaks for Jesus, his Apostles, and their women, to the elaborate robes of the high priests, Pilate, Herod, and their women. There are loin-cloths, helmets for soldiers, surrealistic hats, head pieces, spears, and other accessories.

Choreography:

Choreographed movement, production numbers that take the form of mini-pageants.

Lighting and Special Effects:

Dramatic lighting throughout. Vast lighting areas. Several follow spots in front. Boxes and backstage lofts are helpful and add to the Superstar effect.

Discography

  Jesus Christ Superstar (1996) Lyceum Revival Cast CD.