With the coming of a new year comes new plans. It’s an opportunity to see what worked and what didn’t in the year just gone and from that, decide what it is you want to do with the year ahead. If you’re Andrew Lloyd Webber, then in 2012 you want to search for Jesus.
It was over forty years ago that Andrew Lloyd Webber teamed up with lyricist Tim Rice to create Rock Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar which, after a lukewarm Broadway debut, opening in London’s West End to great critical acclaim. The musical, which was last seen here in 2004 with a UK tour, has received a new surge of interest courtesy of the new Toronto production, which goes to Broadway later this year. Rumours of Lloyd Webber’s new plans for the hit musical have been swirling for months and as the new year gains ground, so too do these rumours. It seems work is underway for an arena tour which would start in America before coming over to the UK and that Lloyd Webber is looking to cast both the leading role of Jesus and treacherous disciple Judas through the medium of reality TV.
It’s not the first time the composer has used a televised talent contest to cast a role; in fact, this will be the fifth. Lloyd Webber has cast the lead for four of his musicals in this way, which started with The Sound of Music (How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?) and moved on to Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (Any Dream Will Do), Oliver! (I’d Do Anything), rounding off with last year’s casting for The Wizard of Oz (Over The Rainbow). The highly successful programmes made stars of winners Connie Fisher, Lee Mead, Jodie Prenger and Danielle Hope, as well as a high number of the other contestants, such as Samantha Barks, Sarah Lark, Rachel Tucker, Siobhan Dillon and Daniel Boys, to name a few.
Now, according to reports in The Sun, the fifth in the talent search series will air on ITV, instead of the BBC as in previous years, citing the Beeb’s apparent concerns about Christian viewer’s reactions as the reason. The newspaper also suggests that Steve Balsamo, the Welsh singer who portrayed the title role in the 1996 revival of JCS (and sings one of, if not the, best renditions of Gethsemane I’ve heard), will be joining The Lord on the judging panel on the programme.
The news of casting for Jesus Christ Superstar on TV has created quite the online buzz, certainly raising the excitement levels of a great deal of tenor singers. People have been having plenty of fun with it too, laughing over the thought of the “You could be Jesus!” line and speculating over the staging of the show – who wouldn’t want to see voted-off contestants attached to a crucifix and hoisted off into the rafters?
As one of my personal favourites when it comes to musical theatre, I’m enjoying witnessing this revival in the musical’s popularity. The role of Jesus is a tough one vocally, so I think it would be very interesting to see the level of talent that makes it through to the live shows. A new West End star could most definitely be uncovered which, cynicism about free publicity aside, is what these programmes are all about. They offer opportunities to undiscovered talent and if you look at how many former contestants are now working in the West End, it’s plain to see how they’ve changed the face of the West End: I, for one, am looking forward to seeing it changed again.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
9th January 2012