“Jesus Christ Superstar” arrives on the small screen in 2018 on NBC. Casting has just begun but the live musical is set to air on Easter 2018. The original Broadway show opened in October 1971 and ran until July 1973, covering more than 700 performances. Since that time, this worldwide phenomenon has thrilled audiences for over four decades. It is a timeless work of art covering a familiar, but extraordinarily put together series of events. Unlike others of its kind, “Jesus Christ Superstar” is told through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. Fans of the iconic and controversial musical have mixed feelings on its return.
The network has focused on live musicals for the past four years. In 2013, “The Sound of Music” followed the next year with “Peter Pan Live.” Then it shifted for 2015 to “The Wiz Live” and last year sounded off with “The Passion.” Next Easter, “Jesus Christ Superstar” comes alive on the small screen. The original was such a sensation that many expect the revival to pan in comparison. However, fans will still sing along with the familiar rock opera-themed songs.
One of the greatest stories ever told returns just in time for Easter. NBC reinvents the groundbreaking, iconic rock opera for the modern age. The controversial musical is an interpretation of Jesus Christ’s last days from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, his betrayer. A great deal of the controversy is the result of perceived sexual undertones, while other debates surround the doctrinal concerns and the vibrant choreography. Despite the heated conversation about the production, many find it highly entertaining, magnetic, and energetic.
In the original screenplay, Carl Anderson as Judas and Ted Neeley as Jesus Christ are amazing. When speaking of the negative sensitivity to the musical, Neeley said:
The element of negative response came out of a lack of knowledge of what the piece was about. It was a personal thing that people took issue with; based on the fact they assumed it was blasphemous simply because it is called Jesus Christ Superstar. ‘Oh, my God! Jesus is singing with a Rock and Roll band?! That can’t be good.’
The film opens as a group of performers travel to the desert to re-enact the Passion of Christ. They arrive on a bus, assemble their props, and get into costume. After which, surrounded by the others, one member of the group, emerges as Jesus in a white robe. As the musical continues, Judas begins to worry about the increasing popularity of Jesus. Why is he being hailed as the Son of God? He is just a man who is beginning to believe his own propaganda. Judas starts to fear the consequences of their growing movement. The production heightens as Christ’s followers continue to grow while leaving Judas to make a defining choice between betrayal and his faith.
Although those familiar with the story of Christ know the decision Judas makes, but it is interesting to watch it play out in the mind of the betrayer. After all these years, people continue to speak on how this piece has touched their lives so deeply. NBC is set to return it to the fans in 2018. Whether it will meet longtime fans’ approval no one knows, but it will feature great talent and a modernized twist.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, creators of the ’70s Broadway rock opera, will executive produce NBC’s live musical. In 2014, “Jesus Christ Superstar” prepared for a 50-city arena tour. Despite the star-studded cast, the show was canceled due to low ticket sales. Fans of the show have another opportunity to see “Jesus Christ Superstar” come alive on NBC April 1, 2018.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
The Christian Post: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Coming to Television
Deadline: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’: NBC Sets Live Staging Of Classic Musical For Easter 2018
Huffington Post: A Conversation With Ted Neeley, Hollywood’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
Top Image Courtesy of Stiletto’s Flickr’s Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Otterbein University Theatre’s Flickr’s Page – Creative Commons License