The 1970s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar is being resurrected for a North American arena rock tour this summer, led by a former boy band member, an R&B siren and a punk icon.
The musical written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice about the last days of Jesus will start a 54-city tour in New Orleans on June 9.
It will star punk legend John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon as King Herod, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child as Mary Magdalene, Brandon Boyd of Incubus as Judas and JC Chasez of `N Sync as Pontius Pilate. Ben Forster, the winner of the U.K.’s prime-time contest show Superstar, will play the son of God.
“I’m looking forward to the experience,” said Chasez. “This is honestly my first theater experience so I’m being thrown into the fire a bit. But I’m excited because the fact that we’re doing something that feels pretty unique.”
The tour will start at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans and include stops in Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Phoenix, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, New York City, and Boston before ending in Philadelphia on Aug. 16.
The guitar- and keyboard-driven musical, which debuted on Broadway in 1971, includes such songs as “What’s the Buzz?” “Superstar,” “Everything’s Alright” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” The show will have four video cameras broadcasting the show onto screens and use the latest in lighting and sound technology.
Superstar was first introduced as an album before being staged in theaters on Broadway and London. “There’s always been, for me, something a little bit constraining about it in a theater,” said Lloyd Webber. “We wrote it as a rock album and not as a stage show.”
In 2012, producer Michael Cohl said he saw a concert version of Superstar in London and was blown away. That show toured the U.K. and Australia before jumping to North America. Ticket prices in America will be between $29 and $125.
Cohl, who was a lead producer on the ill-fated, aerial-effects laden Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, declined to talk too much about the financing, but said the new show’s total costs are in the “eight figures” and needs to pull in “several hundred thousand dollars” each night to keep it on the road. “It’s a particular pleasure for me to get to work on this show — particularly because there’s no flying,” Cohl joked.
The original production earned five Tony Award nominations, including one for Ben Vereen, who played Judas. A film version was released in 1973 and the last Broadway revival was staged in 2012 under the direction of Des McAnuff.
The musical dramatizes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the unrest caused by his preaching and popularity, his betrayal by Judas, the trial before Pontius Pilate and his ultimate crucifixion. It marked an early collaboration between Lloyd Webber and Rice, who also created Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Evita.
At a press conference Friday announcing the tour, Williams, Forster and Boyd sang a few songs and Lydon, formerly of the Sex Pistols, threw out bananas to the media, using expletives with ease. Chasez said the cast — with backgrounds from punk to pop — would bring their different performance styles and create something special.
“It sounds crazy and wonderful at the same time,” he said.