Jesus Christ Superstar first came to major theatres when it debuted on Broadway in October 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York. The Broadway production ran for 720 performances, closing two years later after grossing over £2.8 million at the box office, and Andrew Lloyd Webber won the prestigious Drama Desk Award as Most Promising Composer for Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972.
Less than 12 months after the Broadway show opened, the rock spectacle came to London, exploding onto the West End at the Palace Theatre in August 1972 in a hugely successful production directed by Jim Sharman and starring Paul Nicholas singing the part of Jesus.
Arriving in London that same year for the UK premiere of his ‘Fifteenth Symphony’, Dmitri Shostakovich asked to see a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was so impressed by what he heard and saw that he went back the following night to see it again, commenting that he would have liked to try some of the instruments.
By 1980, after 3,358 performances, Jesus Christ Superstar had become the longest running musical in West End history at the time and grossed £7.5 million.
Two decades later, Jesus Christ Superstar received its first blessing from the Vatican when a production by Massimo Romeo Piparo’s Peep Arrow company was endorsed by the Vatican’s official 2000 Jubilee Programme. Songs from the show were performed in front of Pope John Paul II in Rome during the Jubilee in May of that year.
In all, Jesus Christ Superstar has grossed over £120 million and has been professionally produced in 42 countries around the world, including major theatre productions such as:
- 1971: Broadway debut in the US at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York
- 1972: UK debut on London’s West End at the Palace Theatre, starring Paul Nicholas and Stephen Tate
- 1972: Record breaking tours open in Sweden and Australia.
- 1973: Shiki show interpretation opens in Japan.
- 1983: UK touring production began at the Manchester Palace
- 1992: UK 20th anniversary tour, co-produced by and starring Paul Nicholas
- 1992: Australian arena concert broke all box office records at the time attracting an audience of over one million.
- 1991: Japanese Kabuki production in London’s Dominion Theatre
- 1995: Productions in Italy by Massimo Romeo Piparo over 10 years from 1995-2005, with revivals from 2009-2011
- 1996: 25th anniversary heralded a brand new UK production at the Lyceum, Theatre, London. Steve Balsamo sang the part of Jesus and Zubin Varla played Judas
- 1998: A new production by Really Useful Group and starring Glenn Carter mounted for UK tour, opening to critical and public acclaim in Newcastle Upon Tyne and transferring after an 18 month run to Germany
- 2000: Revival of the 1998 UK tour for 10 months
- 2000: Production at New York’s Ford Center for the Performing Arts on Broadway, again starring Glenn Carter
- 2001: A production in Mexico City ran for nine months
- 2002: USA tour revival which ran for over two years.
- 2004: Two month tour in Korea
- 2004: UK tour which ran for a year and then again in 2008, produced and directed by Bill Kenwright
- 2005/06: Netherlands national tour
- 2006: Tour across USA featuring Ted Neeley from the 1973 movie.
- 2006: Production opens in South Africa.
- 2007: Production in Greece at the Badminton Theater, Athens
- 2007/08: Production in Madrid, followed by tour around Spain
- 2010: Production opens in Hungary at the Madach Theatre, Budapest, and continues today
- 2011: 40th anniversary of the first USA stage production
- 2011: Show revival in South Africa.
- 2011: Japanese Shiki Revival launches.
- 2011: Czech Republic production opens at the Karlin Theatre, Prague, and continues today
- 2012: A new production directed by Des McAnuff opened on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre on 22 March