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Samuel Morris Year One MT.

Context Essay.

When asked what musicals have been influenced by social and political
events I often look in the direction of major change in the art form which
could be subsequent to an event in history. This is true with shows such as
Showboat, Oklahoma and even Rent all of which tackle many issues within
the themes presented in the shows themselves. I look at these musicals
as representatives of a clear influence by the socio-political events of the
time. We see a racially integrated cast in Showboat (1927) in a time when
the blacks were still segregated in many US states, Oklahoma (1943) and
its debut during the Second World War. We see that the latter show
tackling an issue close to the hearts of its audience was Rent (1996) which
tackled the issue of AIDS in the 1980s.
When I look at Jesus Christ Superstar, I see a musical tackling the
written gospel and challenging an audience to think of their Messiah as an
ordinary man given celebrity status and incapable to deal with these
powers. Written in 1969 by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice the show
in its original form was a concept album. The show later opened in 1970
as a full scale Broadway production and later became a West End show in
1972. The show does not only follow the decaying power of Jesus but from
the perspective of Judas. This is a musical that has been profoundly
influenced by the socio-political happenings of the 60s and 70s.
From the decade that brought us The Beatles, US Civil Right, Vietnam and
the death of a president, the 1960s were years that changed the face of
America and the world we know it today. During these flower power years
we saw a wide range of musical discoveries and the end of the American
dream had been tarnished by socio-political divides and the lust for
perfection was all but over. The impact brought an almighty change to
Broadway. The Golden Age of Broadway was over and couldnt compare
to the rocknroll music of the mid-Sixties and show tune filled charts were
a thing of the pass indeed Harold Prince noted this whilst directing The
Pyjama Game - QUOTE. Jesus Christ Superstar however changed this, the
concept album released in 1970 topped the U.S Billboard chart for 6
weeks, thus proving that part of the musicals instant success was due to
its instant availability to the masses. It is interesting to see how a rock
opera would be born out of the sixties. I think of the influence brought on
Lloyd Webber by The Beatles and The Who. I see that the show as a rock
concert was
We must also look at the title Superstar - why did the writing duo decide
to give the son of god this celebrity status. What was questioned in this is
whether the world and the Christian faith also saw Jesus as a celebrity.
Throughout the show we see Christ struggle with his new public image
and he is evidently coming to terms with his status as a role model and a
role model for his followers. It makes us an audience question our beliefs

on Christ and puts us in an uncomfortable situation and state of mind. Tim


Rice in an interview stated Christ is not seen as god but simply as a
man... [Time, November 9, 1970]. This is a profound statement to be
make and one that is very interesting when looking at how Christ is
portrayed. We see many scenes in the show where this is happening if we
look at the diseased people, Heal yourselves. We see an internal
struggle and with this one line we see Jesus repel those in need which is a
contradiction to the written gospel. We see the Superstar disfigure even
more as hes singing Gethsemane. We see a true suffering of the
character and for a brief moment the decaying Superstar status.
Take this cup away from me, for I dont want to taste its poison(REF)
Here we see him contemplating an already established fate, it shows us
clearly that Tim Rice is promoting that he is merely a man. I believe that
this is the crowning moment of the show as we finally see and feel
empathy towards the character like never before. He is defeated and he
accepts his fate and death;
Alright Ill die? See how I die, see how Ill die (REF)
We cant only look at the lyrics here but the forceful performance of Ted
Neeley. In the 1972 film we see Jesus climbing and the camera above him
and the actor opening his body at the top of the mountain and wrestling
with God. It gives us a unique chance to view Christ from an above
camera shot peering down at him. We therefore see a full scope of how
Jesus was not a superstar and how Tim Rice was attempting to get the
audience to think beyond that aend imagine if he was not what was first
written. The name Superstar has therefore given us an entire new
perspective on one how we view Christ and how a lead character is
depicted in a musical.