Jesus Christ Superstar

Annie and I went to see the fiftieth anniversary of the professional stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar on January 20, 2024. The show was outstanding. The whole time I was tapping my foot and singing along with the music, which brought back many warm memories.

In 1970, a concert version of this production was released and was immediately controversial, which I also liked. The Christian fundamentalists called it “irreligious,” “irreverent,” “heretical,” and “blasphemous.” Those words probably caused me to like it even more. When the movie version came out, the Christian right (which is neither) stood outside the movie houses with flyers condemning it and warning people not to go in. That encouraged me even more.

Early on in my ministry, I realized that many of Jewish Jesus’s messages and actions could also be labeled irreligious, irreverent, heretical, and blasphemous. I remember one Episcopal priest who said, “The heresy of today will be the orthodoxy of tomorrow.” I’m not sure where the following one came from, but I also identify this with Jesus: “If you’re not offending someone, you’re not preaching the gospel.” And one more: “They didn’t crucify Jesus because he said, ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow’ (Matt. 6:28) but because he said, ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites’ (Matt. 23:23).”

These wise words depict the Jesus that Jesus Christ Superstar presents to me.

There is another reason I identify with this production. It goes back to Hawai’i, in the midsixties, when I had a youth ministry involving some 2,500 young people. One of our many programs was a coffeehouse that functioned every Saturday evening from seven to ten. It was also broadcast over the local radio station and attracted many talented young people, one of whom was Yvonne Elliman, a high school senior who came with her little group to entertain us. Later, she became Mary Magdalene in both stage and film production.

The production Annie and I saw was creatively choreographed and presented. But I also appreciated the diversity of its cast. Jesus was white, not a Palestinian Jew; Mary Magdalene (whom I envision as the wife of Jesus and mother of his children) was Black; and the rest of the cast was diverse as well. For me, this is part of the power of Jesus: he doesn’t care what color you are, how much money you have or don’t have, or where you live. He just wants you to live the agape lifestyle, which demands unconditional love, quick forgiveness, and a whole lot of caring for our fellow human beings, no matter where they are on their life’s journey.

I suspect if the institutional church presented Jesus more as a human superstar, they would be opening four thousand churches a year rather than closing that number.

Have you ever experienced Jesus Christ Superstar? Annie and I found it much more exhilarating than most Sunday church services.

Peace Love Joy Hope Kindness



Photo courtesy of Jef Kratochvil (CC-SA 3.0)

5 thoughts on “Jesus Christ Superstar”

  1. My son Brian was born March 10, 1972. I went back to work 2 weeks later. My sister was taking care of him and every afternoon I stopped by her house in Santa Barbara. It was Easter season and she had the original Broadway cast album which we listened to over and over. I fell in love with the music and the lyrics. The Easter story came alive for me in ways it never happened in church. I bought the album and later the CD which to this day has accompanied me in my car all during Easter season. I have watched different movie versions many times after that including last year when Eric and I watched one together. Three years ago NBC produced a unique version. It was a diverse cast starring John Legend as Jesus, Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, and Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas Iscariot. It was amazing and I watched it 3 times. I can’t remember the last time I was in church on Easter but Jesus Christ Superstar will always be part of Easter for me.

    • Thanks. Annie and I keep talking about “it’s time for a DP fix.” We’re heading to San Diego next week to visit one of our granddaughters but maybe the next week. We’ll give you a heads-up just in case you can join us. PeaceLoveJoyHopeKindness

  2. I too loved Jesus Christ Superstar, the music and the way it gets us to think about the Jewish Jesus and relationships. Your emphasis on the inclusiveness of agape love resonates with me too.

    • Thanks David. It’s always good to hear from you. When I became old, I made a decision not to day about the good old days. But JC Superstar is the good old days that ought to be playing today. My best to Beverly.


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