Tim Minchin to play Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar, a musical by Tim Rice, is one of those bits of Christian art that, somehow, despite its message, became cool not only with Christians — well, the Christians who didn’t have sticks up their asses anyway — but also with atheists. The VHS of the 1973 production is one of the few pieces of Christian kitsch we had in our admittedly mostly-liberal Catholic household when I was growing up, save of course one of those silly pewter Virgin Mary reliefs we had hung over our living room entrance. I remember most of the music from the musical quite well, though it’s been at least a dozen years since the last time I’ve watched it. And damn, but that music is groovy.

So, I am simultaneously unsurprised by, and excited about, this news.

It can be revealed that Minchin will play the disciple Judas in a major revival of the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

He will join the pop singer Nicole Scherzinger, playing Mary Magdalene, in an arena tour of the musical by Lord Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice which will open at London’s O2 arena this summer.

He 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.”

Yeah. No kidding. I couldn’t have come up with a better choice for that part if I tried, frankly. Tim Minchin is exactly right for it. Though, to me, no matter who plays it, Carl Anderson will always be the image of Judas that’s burned in my mind.

This song is pretty much why I think Judas’ character is the best-characterized:

So, am I the only one who enjoyed this Jesus-fest despite my nascent atheism as a kid? Remember, I pretty much figured out there’s no God at thirteen or fourteen, shortly after my Confirmation. And despite that, I distinctly remember pulling that tape out of my father’s collection and watching it in my room while studying in eleventh grade.

Tim Minchin to play Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar
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27 thoughts on “Tim Minchin to play Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar

  1. 6

    Blargh, I can’t find it now, but I read a post last week about an atheist mom watching a video of Jesus Christ Superstar with her young daughter who had been raised without Bible stories, and the reaction from the young daughter was basically, “What the fuck is this?” heh… (I paraphrase, of course!)

    I also enjoyed Jesus Christ Superstar, but it’s interesting that it doesn’t make one whit of sense unless you are already culturally acclimated to the story.

  2. 9

    Cool. The only other person I can think of is Eddie Izzard, with some minor script rewriting.

    “Cake or Death?”
    “BRB. Gotta go see a man about a cross”

  3. 10

    I was long an atheist when that first came out, and frankly, I always rather liked it, even though I am NOT a fan of musicals in general. I have to confess I enjoyed the reaction of the fringe Christians quite a bit.

    Judas’s song always struck me as particularly evocative. “You’ve begun to matter more than the things you say”. Which, of course, is why you so seldom hear a preacher quoting Jesus.

    But there is some good music in it, allowing for some vocal acrobatics that I really love. This is Daniel Keyes version of Gethsamene.

  4. 11

    Shut the front door! That is SO AWESOME! I used to be a huge Andrew Llyod Weber fan. I saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with my youth group when I was a teenager and still confess to lurving it (I wanted to play the part of the Narrator soooo much). I’ve never seen an entire production of Jesus Christ Superstar, but I’ll have to remedy that now 🙂

  5. 15

    I’ve never seen Jesus Christ Superstar. Not as a Bible-thumping teen, a drunk agnostic young adult, or an atheist 30-something.

    For my money, the only musical worth watching is “Gay: A Gay Musical” from season 2, episode 1 of The IT Crowd.

  6. 16

    It’s going into my Netflix queue, at worst I’ll just end up hitting mute, taking off my glasses, and watching the pretty colors.

  7. 17

    I have turned Good Friday into “Beer and Jesus Christ Superstar Sing-Along Day” for the past several years.

    It’s a fucking blast.

    Even when I was still a believer, I liked JCS better because: A: it actually dealt with the obvious problems with Judas’ role in the Passion, and B: it treated Jesus like a real, actual person grappling with the whole ‘being God’ thing.

    Nobody can sing-scream like Angsty White Rock-n-Roll Jesus.

  8. 18

    I don’t think about it very often but letting a girl that I worked with talk me into going to see this as an seventeen year old mormon was possibly the most rebellious thing that I did in twenty six years of mormonism. Incredible music, a message that meant very different things to me then than it does now and performances that still bring chills. Tim has an enormous set of shoes to fill in playing Judas and while I imagine that he will play the part a bit differently than (the spectacular) Carl Anderson, I have no doubt that he will make it his own. Anyone know if there are any plans to take it on the road, (this side of the pond)?

  9. 19

    Loved it as a kid/teen, despite lack of belief and the hatred of rock critics like Rolling Stone. One memorable Easter dinner included an a cappella version by the diners from the lyrics book (with the addition of the lyric my sister taught me “Jesus Christ, Superstar, who in the Hell do you think you are”). Heck, I even have some Ted Neely non JC vinyl.

  10. 20

    My mother was convinced that one of the creators was Jewish, and couldn’t possibly get the story right. So I grew up with the thought that it was a highly sacrilegious musical, and have only seen bits of it…

  11. JR

    My family was almost entirely religion-free, and the original cast recording of JCS was (and is) one of my all-time favourite albums. This, and the legendary Life of Brian were my main inroads to biblical history – that is to say, Python comedy aside, a more political/philosophical rather than strictly religious take on the story. It certainly didn’t make any sense to me as a kid until my mother explained some of the more Xian elements.

    A dinner party with my brothers once descended into a double-album singalong to the full length of the production, and as an Australian, living in London, I’m pretty keen to get tickets (I’ve seen two or three other live productions of it, but I have a feeling this one will be a corker)!

  12. 22

    JCS has always been one of my favorite musicals. About 20 years ago there was a revival with Carl Anderson and Ted Neeley reprising their roles from the movie. Sure, by then they were too old to really fit the part, but it was great to see them live. Throw in Dennis DeYoung playing Pilate and it was an great show.

    I even have the original Broadway soundtrack gathering dust somewhere.

  13. 23

    Huh, I always though JCS was very sacrilegious – it’s a story about Jesus and Judas as people, stripped of divine magic. I’ve always been shocked not that atheists or other non-Christians like it, but that Christians do. I wouldn’t call it Christian art, I’d call it (subversive) art about Christianity (Tim Rice disidentifies with the label ‘Christian’: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19821127&id=uzwsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=4s4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6254,6671012).

  14. 24

    Yes, I’d agree with the “sacrilegious” label. Judas comes back to sing after his death, Jesus is “just a man”, a bit full of himself and is not resurrected, the disciples are a bunch of thick blockheads.

    The original studio recording from 1970 (Ian Gillan as JC, Murray Head as Judas, Barry Dennan as Pillate and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdelene) is, in my opinion, the best version.

    Lots of rely great songs:

    Heaven on Their Minds, I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Gethsemane, Pilate’s Dream.

  15. 26

    I saw one of the first tours of the show back in the 70’s, and bought the original cast album, and loved all the songs. Thought I was a believer back then, but I really liked the humanity of the story.

    Then a couple years ago, my daughter and I snagged some free tickets to the revival tour. OMG, they had Ted Neely playing JC — he had to be almost 70. He was awful. Daughter called him “Grandpa Jesus” and during the crucifixion, we both muttered under our breath “just die, already”.

    I enjoyed the rest of the music, but christ on a cracker — the guy was supposed to have died at age 33!

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