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Biblical incidents from Jesus' last week ar e
there. Some are fabricated, some omitted.
Rather than an accurate theological or
historical presentation, Superstar is heavily
psychological, and therefore imaginative or
projective in nature. This preoccupation
makes it consciously anachronistic. No
one should attend Super star as their prime
The big ending -- Resur rection -- is not
there for Rice or the contempor ary
audience. It wa s not there for the
Sadducees in Jesus' time, either. Unlike
the Pharisees, their convictions did not
extend to life after death. Jesus told them it
should, if their 'super stars', Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob and Moses, were ultimately to have
meaning and value.
Saint Paul writes similarly, to the Christians
at Corinth and to us. No resurr ection for
Jesus, none for us ! We are to be greatly
pitied if, in fact, there is no resurr ection as
The film ver sion of Superstar ends with
an allusion to resurrection for those who
want to see it. A shepherd is seen leading
sheep in the shadow of the empty cross.
'Take from that what you will', it seems
What does Superstar leave its audience?
As mentioned above, great music,
psychological drama and serious issues of
human behaviour to ponder are all legacies.
For the believer and the non-believer alike,
there are images of characters battling with
questions of doubt, duty, destiny, altr uism,
fatalism, commitment, self-image, self-
deception, r ationalisation and other such
struggles of the human condition.
Concerning the Super star, the non-believer
may conclude, "Good person, done in as
always." Or possibly, "Should have been a
bit more clever and self-preser ving than
that! Should have looked after number
one." Perhaps even, "A true humanist,
rightly immor talised in human histor y
for his integrity and futile str uggle against
As I see it, for the human spirit with its
infinite longings, the "immor tality" that
comes only from being well remembered
isn't eternal, not nearly enough. Even a
Superstar whose only immor tality is in
other mor tal memories is no more a
lasting star than those ordinary mor tals
remembering him until they burn out.
Besides, being well-remembered means
nothing at all to the ver y one who is
remembered but no longer exists to
appreciate being remembered. It ha s to
be per sonal immor tality -- eternal life --
The disciple of Christ, likewise emerging
from the theatre with the exuberance
of a power ful dr amatic experience, will
be gr ateful for the faith that says this
was no str uggle without triumph, no
gloomy night without sunrise, no death
The disciple's response : "Thanks be to
God for the Super star who was raised up,
dr awing all of us to be rising star s."
Enjoy Super star for what it is -- brilliant
musical theatre about a good man !
Take it fur ther in your hear t, beyond the
theatre, to our Resurrection with the
Talk about Jesus, or write about him, and
you reveal much about yourself.
I think this is the case for Tim Rice in the
seventies with Jesus Christ Superstar. It
reveals a lot about Rice and the times.
In writing the plot and the lyrics , Tim
Rice must have gone through a process
of deciding what he believed and wanted
to convey, what he thought would be
acceptable and appeal to the audience he
had in mind, perhaps even what he thought
he could and could not get away with.
From the success of the staged ver sions,
the movie, and the recordings, it is evident
that he triumphed in terms of popularity
As a product of its writer and its times
we encounter, no doubt, the reason for
ther e being no Super star resur rection.
Resur rection was a step too far.
Resur rection would have propelled
the superstar into an entirely different
orbit, into God, into a religious entity
unacceptable or foreign to many venturing
to London's West End or New York 's
Broadway. Best not to go there.
For talk of resurrection, some of those
theatre-goers would have gone to church.
For enter tainment, and some intellectual
stimulation, the theatre provided well for
Theatre audiences left with Andrew Lloyd
Webber's great music playing in their
heads. They also left with challenges and
stimulating ideas and questions about
Jesus. They would not have felt Rice wa s
preaching at them. They would have left
with no sense of definitiveness and firm
conclusion. Many would blithely have
repeated Mary Magdalene's lyrics, "He's a
man, he's just a man".
They lived through, for a few hour s, a
psychological tussle between two
protagonists, Jesus and Judas, and within
each of these highly imagined characters
as well. Some would have identified this
same contest within themselves. Mary
Magdalene and Pilate are also por trayed in
terms of imagined inner struggle. We are
dr awn to sympathise with their difficulties,
both internally and in the public forum.
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