Jesus Christ Superstar
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics by Tim Rice
TM © 1996 The Really Useful Group Limited

April 15 - 17 at 8 PM
April 18 at 2 PM
Power Center

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From our Newsletter
Tim Rice is arguably the world's most famous living lyricist. With a career that spans three decades and a catalog of songs that includes many of the most popular ever written for stage and screen, it is no surprise that Tim Rice fans span the generations. Baby Boomers first embraced him during his partnership with Andrew Lloyd Webber in the mid-1960s. Their children came to know him through the hit Murray Head song "One Night in Bangkok" (a cross-over hit from the musical "Chess"), which peaked at #3 on the US charts in 1983. And today, children and their families identify him with the wonderful songs he wrote with Alan Menken and Elton John for the Disney films "Aladdin," "The Lion King" and "The Road to El Dorado."

It was "Jesus Christ Superstar," however, that made Tim Rice ... a superstar. The frank, bold and revolutionary lyrics he wrote for the show intimated the magnitude of his talents. And when audiences come to see the Musical Theatre Department's April 15-17 presentation of this classic musical they will find it hard to disagree that like Oscar Hammerstein II, Alan Jay Lerner, and W.S. Gilbert before him, Tim Rice's contributions to the world of music are immeasurable.

Born November 10, 1944, in Buckinghamshire, England, Timothy Miles Bindon Rice was a bright child who excelled at so many things that he often had a difficult time deciding what interested him most. His first passion was cricket, but he was also an enthusiastic music student and a talented writer. His amusing, debonair good looks created another distraction for him as he grew older, as he was always a favorite of the female students at his school.

Pulled in so many different directions, Tim frequently experienced a strong sense of wanderlust. Beginning his secondary education at Sussex's Lancing College, he soon transferred to the Sorbonne. His tenure in Paris was likewise short lived, but his time on the continent was a turning point for him, giving him an opportunity to sample a large quantity of what he loosely called "life." By the time he returned home he was ready to take on a career.

After working a range of jobs from gas station attendant to law office intern, Rice ultimately landed a job at EMI, Ltd., one of England's premiere record companies. Here he was employed as an assistant to Norrie Paramour, a well-known bandleader, orchestrator, and record publisher. Tim loved the job because it put him within reach of his idols. EMI was then handling Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and several soon-to-be giants of rock and roll, and although his contact with these stars was slight, the creative minds he worked with every day inspired him to pursue some of his own dreams in the world of popular music.

Tim had already composed some songs and he also sang with a little-known band called the Aardvarks. He also had an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre. Tim's brain was full of song titles and artists; he knew when the song was released, how high it went on the charts, even which label released it. The idea of collecting this information into book form - a kind of Guinness-style book of hit singles - eventually led him to a publisher named Desmond Elliot. Rice remembers that "the man didn't really like my book idea ... But when [Desmond] discovered I was in the music business, he said I ought to meet this young fellow Andrew Lloyd Webber he knew was looking for a lyric writer."

On April 21, 1965, Tim typed a note inviting Lloyd Webber to get in touch with him. Rice had written: "Dear Andrew, I have been told that you 'were looking for a "with-it" writer of lyrics for your songs,' and as I have been writing pop songs for a short while now and particularly enjoy writing the lyrics, I wondered if you considered it worth your while meeting me?" Rice then went on to give an even humbler self-assessment: "I may fall short of your requirements, but anyway it would be interesting to meet up - I hope!"

But Tim did not have the slightest need for such reserve. Not only was he already working in the music business which Lloyd Webber wanted to enter, he was three-and-a-half years older and had been out in the world for the greater part of these.

While the pair were polar opposites (Rice wanted to write rock and roll songs while Lloyd Webber fancied writing the next "Sound of Music"), they were effective collaborators. They worked so well together that Lloyd Webber cut his career at Oxford off at the conclusion of his first semester to develop their partnership. "As soon as we started to work together," Lloyd Webber reminisced, "I saw how much better he was than all of the people I was ever likely to meet at Oxford. ... I left for Tim."

It wasn't long before their works were being staged. Their first project, a musical called "The Likes of Us," quickly sank into obscurity, but their second collaboration showed enormous promise. Commissioned by the choir director of Colet Court, the preparatory school where Andrew's brother Julian was a choir-boy, the work was intended to be a 15 minute piece suitable for the school's end-of-the-year concert. A theme was never specified, but it was understood that the show was to have a religious theme.

Andrew stole many of his tune ideas from popular songs and musical styles - from calypso to Elvis Presley and Tim researched the story by skimming Genesis, although he ultimately found most of his inspiration from "The Wonder Book of Bible Stories." The musical turned out to be notable for several different reasons. Andrew's mixture of pop and classical music blended perfectly with Rice's distinctive, contemporary verse style which was part speech-patterned and part lyrical, and combined everyday language with and enjoyable and youthful comic sense. The musical also broke away from the scenes-and-songs style that had been made popular by Rodgers and Hammerstein and returned to a cantata form, a sung text with no intervening dialogue, which had scarcely been used since Gilbert and Sullivan. And while Tim proposed, tongue-in-cheek, that the show be called "How to Succeed in Egypt Without Really Trying," the work came to be known as "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."

"Joseph" reached larger audiences through performances at the Old Vic, St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, where Rice himself played the role of the Elvis-inspired Pharoah, and soon the piece was playing on London's West End. Meanwhile, Lloyd Webber and Rice returned to a religious theme for their next major production. They decided, though, that this time they would focus on a New Testament subject. Rice joked that he wanted to call this show "Christ!" - a take-off on "Oliver!" - but soon came back suggesting the more serious "Jesus Christ," but was afraid that this too would give offense. This led him to tack on a word that had recently been coined by Andy Warhol. And so the show came to be known as "Jesus Christ Superstar."

"Jesus Christ Superstar" was an instant cultural phenomenon. The show was controversial, star-worthy (John Lennon was even courted to play the role of Jesus), and trendy because it was billed as a Rock Opera, a term that had recently been coined for The Who's groundbreaking composition "Tommy." It was "Jesus Christ Superstar's" innovative studio cast album, though, that generated the most buzz. Rice and Lloyd Webber pioneered the use of concept albums in raising both money for and public awareness of their music. The "Superstar" album topped the American pop charts long before the musical was ever staged, generating two hit singles – Murray Head's "Superstar" and Yvonne Elliman's "I Don't Know How To Love Him."

Serendipity also had a hand in "Jesus Christ Superstar's" success. Rice and Lloyd Webber's composition reached the public shortly after the conclusion of the Vatican II Council, a time when popular music was becoming widely accepted by the church. It didn't take long before the music from "Jesus Christ Superstar" had found its way into church services and reached an audience that may have never been interested in a work of musical theater.

In no time successful productions of "Jesus Christ Superstar" were mounted both on Broadway and in London's West End (the latter, which premiered August 9, 1972, at the Palace Theater, later surpassed "Oliver!" as the longest-running musical in British theater history). A feature film version of the musical directed by Norman Jewison, followed in 1973, bringing the show to the attention of a worldwide audience.

The whole affair left Rice feeling like he was on top of the world. But he still felt like it was his time to guide the pair on their next project, which he was convinced should be the story of Eva Perón. Driving home in 1973 Rice caught the end of a radio program on Perón and was immediately infatuated. Tim thought that, like the title character of "Jesus Christ Superstar," Eva was another legend who had done it all and died by the age of 33.

The next couple of years were filled with great hardships and even more success. Creative differences split the two at times, and Tim and Andrew seemed to be forever locked in a power play. But "Evita" was a tremendous hit. It played for nearly eight years in London and the concept album for the show netted another number one single in "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina."

But their partnership was still in its last stages. Although they had worked well together during the writing of the musical, but they fought bitterly in almost every other aspect of their lives, from casting choices, to the way thought Tim was handling his personal life. Eventually Rice and Lloyd Webber split.

In the following years, their paths would cross again many times. From Lloyd Webber requesting Tim write lyrics for the song "Memory" (a project that further split the pair when the show's director, Trevor Nunn's, lyrics were selected instead), to the pair reuniting to write a new song, "You Must Love Me," for the 1996 motion picture version of Evita.

Although the pair have gone their separate ways, their relationship could possibly still be best summarized by a lyric of Tim's from "Evita:" "I'd be surprisingly good for you." Many would argue that the pair did their best work together. Andrew seemed to need Tim's leavening wit and temper, and Tim needed Andrew's potent energy to make sure that whatever they wrote made it to the stage.

Regardless, Tim's contributions to the stage and screen, from "Evita," to "Chess," to "The Lion King," have made him a legend of popular music. Come see "Jesus Christ Superstar" and see where the legend began.
- Joel Aalberts

Press Release
ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan's Musical Theatre Department closes out the School of Music's mainstage season with the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar" by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The musical that launched Webber and Rice's careers along with a new era in musical theatre plays April 15 - 17 at 8PM and April 18 at 2PM at the Power Center in Ann Arbor. The show, which ironically made the team "superstars," continues to stir the controversy and following it garnered at its premiere.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice met in 1965. Having found success with their second collaboration, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," the team chose another religious story for their next project. "Jesus Christ Superstar", a human telling of the last days of Jesus, debuted as a concept album in 1970, topping the American pop charts and generating interest and controversy. Premiering at the conclusion of Vatican II and after the break-through musical "Tommy," "Superstar" was able to capitalize on the acceptance by the Church of modern music. Vatican Radio played excerpts from the work stating, "In this modern piece the suffering of Christ is seem with more human insight and the figure of the Redeemer is brought even closer to mankind than through the Holy Scriptures." The show was produced on Broadway in 1971 starring Ben Vereen as Judas. In 1973, a film was made of the work directed by Norman Jewison. "Jesus Christ Superstar" was revived on London's West End in 1996 and brought to Broadway in 2000.

Webber's score for "Jesus Christ Superstar" features a number of well-known hits, including "Heaven On Their Minds," "I Don't Know How To Love Him," "Hosanna," and the title song, "Superstar." Mixing a broad range of rhythmic forms, including Webber's fondness for unusual time signatures, the music is both haunting and eminently hummable. Rice's libretto is startlingly contemporary and presents a Jesus who seems more human than divine. The "Jewish Chronicle" in reviewing the 2000 revival declared, "Tim Rice's lyrics are as fresh as the day they were first heard twenty-five years ago."

"Jesus Christ Superstar" tells the story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The tale begins with Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and the unrest caused by his preaching and popularity. As Jesus' radical teachings are evermore embraced by the populace, one of his disciples, Judas, increasingly questions the enlightened motives of this new prophet, resulting in betrayal. A powerful, emotional tale of men and women driven to their fate by forces beyond their control, Christ's final days are dramatized with emotional intensity, thought-provoking edge and explosive theatricality.

The theatricality inherent in the musical is an element that director and choreographer Linda Goodrich wants to highlight along with the universality of the story. "In our production a contemporary audience looks at an ancient story. From the set, that combines ancient walls with exposed lighting and modern scaffolding, to the costumes that have modern dress accented with traditional pieces, the entire musical is a play within a play. All of these elements join together to help bring different views and faiths to the story. We want to honor everyone’s perspective and religious beliefs."

Joining Goodrich on the artistic team is Musical Director/Conductor Ben Whiteley, who last joined the Musical Theatre Department for "Side Show" and "Cabaret" and was recently the musical director for the national tour of "The Full Monty." Designers for the production include scenic designer Vincent Mountain ("Xerxes," "Hamlet"), costume designer George Bacon ("Children of Eden," "Parade"), lighting designer David Neville ("Children of Eden"), and sound designer Jim Lillie ("The Tavern").

Ticket prices are $20 and $15 reserved seating with students only $8 with ID. Tickets are available in person at the League Ticket Office, located within the Michigan League. The Ticket Office is open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday and 10am-1pm on Saturday. Order by phone at (734) 764-2538. All major credit cards are accepted. Tickets may also be ordered online at The Power Center, located at 121 N. Fletcher Street, is wheelchair accessible and has an infrared listening system for the hearing impaired.
- Kerianne M. Tupac

The Last Seven Days in the Life of Jesus of Nazareth

Judas can see that things are going badly awry and that all the good work Jesus has done will soon be swept away. The situation is volatile and the authorities are beginning to focus their attentions on Jesus' activities. The Apostles are quizzing Jesus on his plans - they're keen to know what lies in store for them all. Judas watches on in silence until Mary Magdalene arrives. He doesn't understand why Jesus wastes his time on a woman like her. Mary Magdalene tries to calm Jesus with an expensive ointment and tells him not to get worried. Judas snatches the ointment from her and accuses her of wasting resources which would be better served helping the poor. Jesus retorts by saying that there will always be poverty in the world and that they will never be able to help everyone. Meanwhile, Ciaiphas and the Priests discuss the problems caused by the mob following Jesus. They don't understand how he has managed to inspire people and believes that Jesus poses a very serious threat to their authority and the fragile relationship they have with the occupying force from Rome. A mass of people surround Jesus as he triumphantly arrives in Jerusalem. The crowd tells Jesus that they love and believe in him. Simon tries to convince Jesus that he has the power to motivate the crowds to rebel against the Romans. Waking at the dead of night, Pilate recounts a dream which has been troubling him for many months. The dream focuses on a charismatic man. Pilate finds himself in a room full of people baying for this man's blood. The dream ends with an image of millions of people mourning the man's death and leaving Pilate with the blame. Traders, moneylenders and pimps are plying their trade in The Temple - money can buy anything there. Jesus bursts in and cries out that the Temple should be a house of prayer and drives everyone out of the building. Exhausted and despairing, Jesus collapses and dreams that he is surrounded by the poor, the sick and the needy - in the dream Jesus finds that there are too many people for him to help. With Jesus asleep in her arms, Mary contemplates her relationship with this man. She has never experienced love in her life before and she realises that her entire world has been turned upside down by Jesus. The Priests need to know where they can find Jesus away from the crowds. Judas tells them that he will be alone in the Garden of Gethsemane on Thursday night. Judas knows that his betrayal will be remembered for all time but he still clings to his belief that what he is doing is for the best.

Jesus gathers his twelve apostles together. He knows what lies ahead and asks his friends to remember him when they eat and drink. Looking around at their blank faces, Jesus becomes incensed and tells them that he must be mad to think that any of them will remember him after he dies. He turns on Peter telling him that he will deny ever having known him by the end of the night and then reveals that one of his apostles will betray him. Judas leaps up and confronts Jesus and an argument between the two men ensues. Jesus tells Judas to get on with what he has planned and Judas accuses Jesus of ruining everything that they have achieved together. Left alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus ponders his fate, questioning whether he can go through with what he knows lies in store over the next three days. The soldiers arrive at the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. The soldiers arrest Jesus and take him to Ciaiphas, the High Priest. Three onlookers all recognise Peter as one of the men who was with Jesus earlier. Each time he denies just as Jesus said he would. Jesus is brought before Pilate. However as Jesus comes from Galilee, Pilate does not feel that he comes under his jurisdiction and instructs the guards to take him to Herod. Herod has heard about the many miracles Jesus has performed and he wants Jesus to prove that he's divine by changing water into wine or walking across his swimming pool! Throughout Herod's tirade, Jesus sits in silence. Infuriated, King Herod throws Jesus out of his house. With Jesus locked in a cell, Mary and the apostles can see that everything they had hoped for has gone horribly wrong. They wish they could turn the clock back and start again. Attacked by guards, Jesus is left half dead. Judas laments what he has seen and realises that he will be blamed for what has happened. He recognises that he is part of some grand design and that God is propelling him towards his destiny and he is powerless to change anything. Filled with despair, Judas commits suicide. Jesus is once again brought before Pilate. A mob, led by the Priests, is screaming for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate believes that the man before him has done nothing wrong. He asks Jesus if he is the King of the Jews to which Jesus simply replies It's you that say I am. To appease the crowd, Pilate flogs Jesus 39 times. A delirious Jesus is taunted by an hallucination of Judas asking him how he could let everything get so out of hand and whether he really is who he says he is. Condemned by Pilate, Jesus is crucified. The apostles are left to comfort each other and ponder the impact that Jesus has had on their lives.
-- TM © 1996 The Really Useful Group Limited

Click here to view the Jesus Christ Superstar program as a PDF file

Production Photographs

Kevin Hale as Judas Brian Hissong as Jesus and the Apostles

Cast John Sloan III as Caiaphas


Helene Dyke, Kate Loprest and Alexis Sims as the Soul Trio Felipe Gonzalez as Simon

Chelsea Krombach as Claudia Procula Mark P. Whitten as Pilate

Cast Michelle Ricci as Mary Magdalene

The Last Supper Brian Hissong and Kevin Hale

Brian Hissong Jumanne Langston as King Herod

Nicholas Ardell as Peter, Michelle Ricci Brian Hissong and Mark P. Whitten

Superstar Crucifixion