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BLOG: The Controversy of Jesus Christ Superstar - By Elliot James

The rock-opera was not as controversial as it might have been, however the

show has been condemned through the years by a few religious groups. South

Africa went so far as to ban the show for being ‘irreligious’. Sir Tim Rice did not

see Christ as God but simply as the right man at the right time and in the right

place. This was indeed blasphemous to some, as was a somewhat sympathetic

portrayal of Judas. The lack of reference to the resurrection also irked many.

Although Rice and Webber made the bold move to end the show with the

crucifixion, which means directors can decide how to portray Jesus during the

curtain call. If he returns in glorious arrayments rather than crucifixion garb, the

result can be interpreted as a kind of of resurrection.

In interviews, Rice and Webber, both raised Anglican, stated that they were

never trying to make a theological point about Christianity. They simply wished

to craft a compelling show. Initially, Rice and Webber's idea didn't take off,

indeed, the 1970 concept album was banned by BBC radio for being sacrilegious.

In the United States, however, the album suffered a different fate and became the

bestselling record of 1971.

Fifty years later, the show's impact has been monumental. It has been

“resurrected” for countless worldwide productions, arena tours and films. It is

not unusual for people to, when reading the New Testament passion, end up

humming tunes from Jesus Christ Superstar. It could be argued that the show

actually opened up the Christian story to generations that wouldn't have

otherwise had any interest. It could also be argued that it makes the gospels

more palatable, understandable… digestible.

It is the most commercially successful adaptation of the Bible in theatre history.

Jesus Christ Superstar allows us to see Jesus as a human being. He becomes

relatable as he suffers the trials of humanity. The audience can still view the

perfection of Jesus… but can easily sympathise with his ability to feel all of the

hurt, pain and betrayal of his journey. And in 1999 the Catholic Church actually

endorsed the musical.

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