By: Ellis Nassour
In 1970, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber burst onto the worldwide stage with the concept album of a musical about the last days of Jesus, the landmark rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, which, in concert; onstage on Broadway, the West End and international stages; and onscreen, became an entertainment juggernaut and also quite controversial, for one reason or another in religious circles.
Around this time of year, with the Easter season, there’re hundreds of licensed productions, but now the rock opera will launch an arena rock spectacular U.S. tour of 50 cities, beginning in New Orelans on June 9.
Sirs Tim and Andrew are in town to announce the plans for the tour at a Friday press conference. The musical will star Ben Foster as Jesus, lead vocalist Brandon Boyd of rock band Incubus as Judas Iscariot, Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams as Mary Magdalene, punkster John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon as Herod, and ‘N Sync’s JC Chasez as Pontius Pilate.
Foster, in his early 30s, is the apt age to play Jesus; however, he’s not the most likely person you’d think of for the role. He was the winner of Superstar, the U.K. TV contest program and went on to play Jesus in a 2012 broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar U. K. Rock Spectacular, which had a hugely successful Brit tour.
He appeared on Broadway last March in the eagerly-anticipated but short-lived production of Lyle Kessler’s Orphans, with music by Tom Kitt and which co-starred Alec Baldwin and Tom Sturridge.
Foster’s had roles in Lone Suvivor, the film adaptation of The Laramie Project , the remake of the 50s Western 3:10 to Yuma, The Mechanic, Bang, Bang, You’re Dead, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Contraband.
Songs from Jesus Christ Superstar, probably Rice and Lloyd Webber’s most eclectic score, include, ”Superstar," "What’s the Buzz," "Strange Thing Mystifying," ”Everything’s Alright," "Hosanna," the showstopping "King Herod’s Song," and the beautiful ballads "I Don’t Know How to Love Him" and "Could We Start Again, Please?" It debuted at Broadway’s Hellinger Theatre in 1971. It was nominated for five Tony Awards.
Ellis Nassour is the author of the book, Rock Opera: The Creation of Jesus Christ Superstar.