Reprising the role he played on Broadway and in the Norman Jewison film of Jesus Christ Superstar, Ted Neeley appears as "Jesus" in the current tour ofSuperstar, which plays in Boston's Colonial Theatre this weekend. Neeley, currently developing his own musical called Pandemonium, was also in the Broadway and L.A. companies of Hair and the stage productions of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Tommy.
Christine Ray plays Mary Magdalene (who sings "I Don't Know How To Love Him"), though Carl Anderson will not rejoin the tour as Judas for another week.
JCS has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, and tells the Passion story through a rhymed rock score. The rock opera was originally available on record only in 1970, and the concept was transformed into a Broadway musical in October, 1971.
"I can't find the right kind of adjectives for Jesus Christ Superstar," Neeley told Playbill On-Line. I did the show in `71, then on film in `72, released in `73. Then they called me for the anniversary tour [of the film] in December, 1992. We were supposed to do three months in Baltimore. But the response was tremendous. Three months became six months, then two years, and now it's four years."
"Everywhere we go, we get invited back," Neeley explained. We've done places six or seven times, because people love this show. When we played the Paramount in `95, we thought, `who's going to come to this? This is New York, they have everything. And January is a slow time for ticket sales. We sold out the whole two-week run. Audiences couldn't get enough." The only drawback to Neeley's continuing commitment to Jesus is the crimp it's put in plans for his own show, Pandemonium, for which he wrote book, music and lyrics. "I'd basically finished it before starting Superstar and I thought, three months, perfect! -- just enough time for things to get rolling. But as long as I'm on tour with this, I can't really do anything with Pandemonium because the producer wants me to be in it whenever it's actually done."
I asked about the similarity of his situation with that of former Styx singer/songwriter Dennis DeYoung, who also got the theatre bug doing Superstar and is trying to launch his own musical Hunchback Of Notre Dame. "I met Dennis back when Styx was still on Wooden Nickel Records. Back then I was promoting Superstar and my own album. He's a remarkable ballad writer, and I wish him tremendous luck with his show. I wouldn't think of opening Pandemonium while he's getting Hunchback off the ground."
Reluctant to discuss Pandemonium in specifics because doing so with a still-unfinished project strikes Neeley as a bad omen, the author did tell Playbill On-Line, "It has to do with the kind of children I've worked with who need help, because they're in hospices, living off of -- or dying off of -- society. Children are the key characters."
"When I go forward on the project," Neeley continues, "I'll probably start with a CD, like Dennis [and Webber with the album of Superstar]. The piece grew out of my normal writing process of doing music for films and TV and drumming in bands, but it grew into a full-blown concept."
Currently, the JC Superstar tour is booked through January -- "but everytime I say that," Neeley says, "the producers call and renegotiations begin."
Here are upcoming tour dates for Jesus Christ Superstar: Nov. 19-Nov. 24: Boston's Colonial Theatre.
Nov. 26-Nov. 27: Stamford, CT, Palace Theatre.
Nov. 29: Portland, ME, Civic Center.
Nov. 30: Springfield, MA, Paramount.
Dec. 1: PA State College - Bryce Jordan Center.
Dec. 3: Hagerstown, MD, Maryland Theatre.
Dec. 5: Ithaca, NY.
Dec. 6: Providence, RI.
Dec. 7: Charlottesville, VA, Performing Arts Center.
Dec. 8: Roanoke, VA.
Dec. 10: Sioux City, IA, Convention Center.
Dec. 11: Wichita, KS.
Dec. 12: Columbia, MO.
Dec. 13: Elkari, IN.
Dec. 14: Peoria, IL, Civic Center.
Dec. 15: La Cross, WI, La Cross Center.
Dec. 16: Ames, IA, Stevens Auditorium.
Dec. 17: Champaign, IL. Assembly Hall.
Dec. 18: Saginaw, MI. Civic Center.
Dec. 20: Duluth, MN. Convention Center.
Dec. 21: Wassau, WI. Grand Theatre.
Dec. 22: Cedar Rapids, IA. Memorial Coliseum.
Dec. 23: Madison, WI. Oscar Mayer.
Dec. 26-Dec. 29: Rosemont, IL. Rosemont Theatre.
Dec. 30: Flint, MI. Whiting Auditorium.
Dec. 31: Clinton Township, MI. Macomb Center.
Jan. 2-Jan. 5, 1997: Pittsburgh, PA. Heinz Hall
Jan 7-Jan. 8: Green Bay or Manitowoc, WI. (?)
Jan. 9: Toledo, OH.
Jan. 10: Dayton, OH.
Jan. 11-Jan. 12: Cleveland, OH.
Jan. 14-Jan. 15: Wilmington, DE. Playhouse Theatre
Jan. 16: Erie, PA. Warner Theatre.
Jan. 17-Jan. 19: Philadelphia, PA. Merriam Theatre.
Asked if he had any advice for the actor playing Jesus in the new London revival of Superstar, Neeley laughed and intoned with mock gravity, "Do as you're told!"
For tickets ($25-$40) and information on Jesus Christ Superstar, call (201) 209-6091.