Reports that comedian Tim Minchin is set to take on the role of Judas in the new arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar have been widely circulating online. The rock musical is to open at the O2 Arena this summer, with the leading role of Jesus being cast via the upcoming ITV televised talent search ‘Superstar’, following the same format Lloyd Webber used for his productions of The Sound of Music (‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?’), Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (‘Any Dream Will Do’), Oliver! (‘I’d Do Anything’) and The Wizard of Oz (‘Over The Rainbow’).
Minchin first fuelled the flames of his involvement when he appeared on BBC Radio 4 for regular segment Desert Island Discs and played ‘Heaven On Their Minds’, a song from the musical. Speaking about his selection, Minchin said, “I reckon I sang this song standing in my parents’ living room, to the vinyl original recording, about 500 times, and subsequently got to understudy the role of Judas in two separate Perth productions of JC Superstar but I never played the role and I keep thinking one day I’m going to play Judas. I just love it because it is just pain and rock.” Shortly after it was broadcasted, The Telegraph reported on Minchin’s casting, along with American pop singer Nicole Scherzinger as prostitute Mary Magdalene. The former Pussycat Dolls singer and US X-Factor judge already has a connection to Lloyd Webber, having recorded a version of the title track from Love Never Dies and performed as Christine in a rendition of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ at the 2011 Royal Variety Performance with former Phantoms Ramin Karimloo, John Owen-Jones, Simon Bowman and Earl Carpenter. Minchin took to twitter that same day to apparently confirm the news, posting a link to the article along with a message on the social networking site that said, “I didn’t know this was on the cards when I recorded Desert Island Discs. (It’s not Nicole, but the rest is accurate).”
Much has been made of Minchin’s casting as treacherous disciple Judas due to the Australian musician/comedian’s atheism, a subject he has been very outspoken about in the past. There has already been speculation that the televised ‘Superstar’ talent search could become a source of ridicule as judges tell contestants: “You could be Jesus”. The addition of atheist Minchin to a musical which contains strong religious/political themes has been considered by some to be another ‘tacky’ and ‘tasteless’ move – words first spoken by lyricist Tim Rice about the plan to cast Jesus through means of a TV show.
To add my two cents here, I don’t think the personal religious beliefs of someone has any bearing whatsoever on the role/musical they choose to play/be involved in. To deny someone the chance because of their beliefs would be much more controversial, and of course, completely unacceptable. The two things are completely unrelated; the only point of interest should be whether Minchin is capable of taking on the role. With his unruly blonde hair and dark eyeliner, Minchin is not an obvious choice for Judas at first glance, but he has displayed his musical talent through the songs he performs in his live shows and the unequivocally popular Olivier Award-winning Matilda The Musical in the West End, for which he wrote the music and lyrics. I think he will be an exceptional addition to what is one of my all-time favourite musicals.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)