So, I’ve become sort of mildly obsessed with Jesus Christ Superstar since I saw Josh Young perform the title song live at the Tonys on Sunday (and in spite of the fact I’ve never seen the show performed and have only seen bits and pieces of the film). I thought he was really freakin’ amazing and tore the roof off the place – but in looking at the comments on Youtube, plenty of folks were full of opinions about the “best” Judas – who knew there was such a good selection of Judases?
Here’s the “classic” version from the 1973 film, with Carl Anderson breaking it down to Ted Neeley’s Jesus. In the original Broadway production of the show, Ben Vereen was cast as Judas, with Anderson as his understudy. After stepping in when Vereen fell ill and, presumably, tearing the roof off, Anderson and Vereen took turns playing the role. Fun fact: in 1992, Anderson and Neeley reprised their respective roles in a revival tour slated to run for three or four months. It wound up running for five years and grossing over $100 million. Jesus!
Now many people think of Anderson as the “original” Judas. While he was indeed cast as Judas in the first authorized production in Pittsburgh, PA, before Jesus Christ Superstar was ever produced theatrically, it existed as an unstaged rock opera recording – and here’s Murray Head (I KNOW!) giving us ’60s Judas.
In 2000, another movie version was released, directed by Gale Edwards based on her 1996 London/Broadway stage revival and shot entirely on indoor sets. Andrew Lloyd Weber stated in a documentary about the making of this film that it was the closest to his original vision (he hated the first Broadway production). Here’s Jérôme Pradon giving good Judas.
Here’s Josh Young (yes, I know I included the same clip in the previous post) at the Tonys. He was nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical and this performance makes it clear why. I have watched this dozens of times – dude is bringing it (though what’s with the backup singers’ chipmunk voices?). He also deserves the Tony for Best Rocking a Tight Blue Satin Suit. Fun fact: Mr. Young is from a Conservative Jewish family.
I also came across a version of this song performed by Michael Bolton at some sort of Grammy All-Stars show. Obviously I’m not posting that shite.
I should also add that my favorite part of this excellent song is the rollicking orchestral bridge just after the first chorus by the back-up singers. And I will say that those dancer/singer ladies making their entrance in the original film is the best 5 seconds of the movie, as this gif makes quite evident.