Despite a lot of cheating, disgruntlement and history of muckraking allegations, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a classic.
Oh dear. The show’s being turned into a movie. Sorry, I don’t have anything to add. Here’s a review of the play. Now here’s a review of the movie.
I was kind of surprised to read this review, one in which the cast and the team behind the show cast their net rather wide and include clips from the popular videos of his performances, including Joaquin Phoenix doing “Rock of Ages” and the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” Ah, those old days. Back when music and posters were clever and mocking, when slasher movies had a punch line and the Berlin Wall stood still, there was such a thing as the future. Now I suppose we can say that we were all watching the movie “Beloved,” and so were Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Okay, so a legal hurdle has been passed. The magical story of the creation of Christ in Bethlehem which Lloyd Webber so charmed us with when he was a kid himself and director Maria Friedman found so compelling here; the indelible music which became a pop experience for so many of us in that performance at the Kennedy Center a couple of years ago; the tiny village of Nazareth which is transported from a worn black and white VHS to living color in the film. Why all this fuss? Because the movie is — is! — plagiarized. Really, it shouldn’t matter. It’s not like the movie was in any way meant to mimic the music or the pageantry. The movie and the play are so very different in their very distinct images and story. Who cares? Actually, there’s an interesting philosophical question here. How much art, how much transcendence does it take to be unforgettable? How much crap is important, or will be? For almost five decades, Lloyd Webber and Rice enchanted us with their infectious music. What made it so lasting?
The British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who wrote “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” is being sued for $10 million by a little-known writer for borrowing from his works.
John Caird, who wrote the screenplay for the musical version of Michael Redgrave’s 1977 war film “Harlequinade,” sued Lloyd Webber and his partner Tim Rice, claiming they stole passages in the movie “Jerusalem” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
But as a recent Times story indicates, the similarities have been contested by all involved.