Jesus Christ Superstar

US Edition Cover, May 1971
US Edition Cover, May 1971 via Wikipedia (follow link for Fair Use rationale)

Jesus Christ Superstar is Rock Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice (1970) that was a box office hit.

In 1973 the opera was made into a film, which some see as campy trash, while others say it’s a compelling portrayal of the life of Jesus and the main figures for and against him. The film follows, at times, a style reminiscent of ancient Greek drama where a background chorus laments tragic characters such as “Poor old Judas…”

It’s also anachronistic, meaning that various 20th C props are used, despite the tale being set in Biblical times. For instance, one actor in the film wears a wristwatch.

Produced in the midst of the Flower Power era, the storyline of JCS, both the musical and the film, is quite progressive, showing signs of feminism in its rendering of the sinner cum disciple, Mary Magdeline. The lyrics of the song “I don’t know how to love him” illustrate some of the human doubts and hardships experienced by those close to heroic figures.

Some Christians, especially those of a Jungian bent, delight in the humanization of the New Testament characters. However, some traditionalist feel the film goes too far, is too liberal, and isn’t an accurate account of the actual Bible story.

On the whole, however, many people, Christian or not, see JCS as a vibrant reinterpretation of the Christ story.

The 1970 lp (hear clip below) featured respected rock artists but not huge superstars like Mick Jagger or John Lennon. However, given the good songs (penned by Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice) and noble cause, the artists seemed to rise above any personal limitations to create a lasting rock masterpiece. In this lp, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts—a situation which, funnily enough, calls to mind the 12 apostles, who, for the most part, were just ordinary men who did extraordinary things.


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