In 1994, Indigo Girls released an album Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection, a grunge rock take on the classic stage musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Never released in the UK, I was sent it on an exchange on a defunct musicals bulletin board. As one of my favourite rock musicals, I have heard many singers tackle Jesus before and since on stage, TV, film and in concert.
In Resurrection, Jesus is played by Amy Ray, and I have recently found the video recording of this show in concert, which presents the whole show in semi-staged format. Her vocals, especially in ‘Gethsemane’, place her in the top four Jesuses, in my opinion.
I’ve written before about my love for the 1973 film and the amazing vocals of Ted Neeley, who continues to perform the role in his eighth decade. Ray takes a different approach, tougher, rougher, fitting in with the whole approach of this project.
This Jesus Christ Superstar is more like Hair! than itself, although both were originally and heavily influenced by the hippy culture of the late 1960s.
Fast forward to 2017 and an all-female cast now tackle the musical as part of the She Is Risen project, concert, and studio recording. Morgan James takes on the role of Jesus on this occasion.
This is a soulful take on the musical, although (unless someone knows different) the concert video is not currently available, leaving us with two albums of ‘highlights’ and an anniversary look-back you can find on YouTube.
With Shoshana Bean as Judas, Orfeh as Pilate, and Debbie Gravitte as Caiaphas, and Cynthia Erivo as Mary Magdalene, there is considerable vocal talent on display, and the project has led to other explorations of female- and non-binary led versions of JCS.
Ultimately, I lean more towards Resurrection and the Indigo Girls because they were my first exposure to a queer reading of the show (some may say Neeley and Carl Anderson as Judas have that frisson in the film, but apart from Mary the cast is resolutely male).
Listen to A Resurrection here. *****
Listen to She is Risen here. ****