Celebrating 50 years of Jesus Christ Superstar

Many things have hit the 50-year milestone this year and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s legendary rock opera musical Jesus Christ Superstar is among the many to celebrate in 2020. Platform’s Amber Malley recounts her own love with the hallowed production…

Jesus Christ Superstar (JCS) was first brought into my life four years ago when it was announced as the new school production to which I was devastated as my impression was a dated musical about Christianity; but my ignorance was quickly corrected.

Once the heartbreak was dealt with (my heart was set on Les Mis) I decided to educate myself with the help of my dad who was brought up on musicals, with JCS sat at his number one. Much to my surprise, this musical was far from dated but actually a complete rock opera filled with spine-tingling electric guitar parts creating a high energy musical complimented by ballads made to camp out in your head for days.

The first experience I had of JFC was the 2012 live arena tour starring Tim Minchin, Ben Forster and Melanie C. These vocal powerhouses show the high demand expected from this score written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The cast left me in complete awe and angry at being cursed with my restricted alto range.

Tim Minchin, Melanie Chisholm and Ben Forster in the 2012 JFC production. (Image Credit: whatsonstage)

When the words Jesus Christ Superstar are even muttered it is a guarantee that those words will be sung straight back mimicking an angelic style voice. This is because, as good as it may be, it seems to be the only song that gets credit from the musical pushing the others to the back seat.

Being a rock opera it means that the musical is sung from start to finish and contains songs of all tempos and genres which means my favourite songs from the musical heard separately could be mistaken for completely different musicals.

One of my personal favourites will always be King Herod’s Song. While it is crucial in the storyline, it creates a light comedic interlude in the musical. In the original film, this song is performed by showing the lavish lifestyle that the king would have in an extremely exaggerated style while the 2012 tour creates a game show style scene including audience participation. The song is comical and fun while keeping the message of the musical which is why it deserves it place at the top.

Production photos for JFC at London’s Barbican Theatre (Image Credit: playbill)

While Gethsemane cannot be forgotten, the ballad that steals the show is I Don’t Know How To Love Him. It is sung beautifully by Mary Magdalene, creating a rawness and gives the audience an understanding of how the character is feeling; creating sympathy for her character.

While being unable to choose what Judas song I prefer I couldn’t leave him without a mention. The versatility of songs throughout the musical showcase the emotions that Judas goes throughout the story and Judas death will never fail to bring a tear to my eye.

Though 50 years may have passed the updates and progression have not let this musical get left behind and I wouldn’t be shocked if we still see it after the next 50 years to come.

By Amber Malley

Feature Image Credit: Kennedy Center

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