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Background: Where It All Began

August 13, 1991|Kevin Fox

Preceded by a successful run in Pittsburgh and by several unauthorized productions around the United States, the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar" opened amid controversy and mixed reviews on Broadway on October 12, 1971. Many reviewers acknowledged the imagination and daring, but others criticized the eclectic musical style and still others found the use of rock idioms in a play about Jesus inherently irritating. Andrew Lloyd Webber, who collaborated with lyricist Tim Rice on the production, would later say that the point of the play was to raise unanswered questions about "one of the great figures of history."

In its first year in production "Jesus Christ Superstar" received five Tony Award nominations and earned Lloyd Webber a Drama Desk Award as the most promising composer of the 1971-72 season. The show's success spread rapidly as road company productions were presented on the West Coast and overseas in Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, Denmark and Australia. An eight-year run in London made it the longest-running musical in British theater history at that time. Altogether, the show has been presented in more than 22 countries.

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