how “the worst idea in history” became a musical phenomenon

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When Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice first approached theater producers with their concept of rock opera on The Last Days of Jesus Christ, they were greeted with ridicule. “It’s the worst idea in history,” a potential investor told songwriter Lloyd Webber.

“To be fair, you could see their point,” notes lyricist Tim Rice. “Why would anyone want to work with some unknown idiots who didn’t really know what we were doing?” But Andrew had a vision for how it should sound, and I had a pretty quirky take on a very old story. And it seemed to hit the mark. ”

Jesus Christ Superstar is half a century old. The original concept double album was released in October 1970 and became the best-selling record in the United States in 1971 (beating Carole King’s Tapestry, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers). It would also sell over eight million copies worldwide, although it did not initially spread to the UK, only reaching 24 on the charts that year. A beautiful new box set was released to mark the 50th anniversary of the first theatrical production on Broadway in October 1971.

Since then, there have been productions all over the world (including an eight-year tour of London’s West End from 1972 to 1980), film and television releases, and arena tours, generating hundreds of millions. of income books. He launched Lloyd Webber and Rice as the creative engines of musical theater.

Its genesis, according to the composers, was not a eureka moment. The two had had small success with a school production of their first musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “In fact, it was the dean of St Paul, Martin Sullivan, who suggested that we do the story of Jesus next,” recalls Lloyd Webber. “Tim and I kinda resisted, but then Tim came up with this interesting angle. What if we told the story from Judas Iscariot’s perspective?


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