Jesus Christ Superstar first came to major theatres when it debuted on Broadway in October 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York. The Broadway production ran for 720 performances, closing two years later after grossing £2.8 million at the box office, and Andrew Lloyd Webber won the prestigious Drama Desk Award as Most Promising Composer for Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972.
Less than 12 months after the Broadway show opened, the rock spectacle came to London, exploding onto the West End at the Palace Theatre in August 1972 in a hugely successful production directed by Jim Sharman and starring Paul Nicholas singing the part of Jesus.
Arriving in London that same year for the UK premiere of his ‘Fifteenth Symphony’, Dmitri Shostakovich asked to see a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was so impressed by what he heard and saw that he went back the following night to see it again, commenting that he would have liked to try some of the instruments.
By 1980, after 3,358 performances, Jesus Christ Superstar had become the longest running musical in West End history at the time and grossed £7.5 million.
Two decades later, Jesus Christ Superstar received its first blessing from the Vatican when a production by Massimo Romeo Piparo’s Peep Arrow company was endorsed by the Vatican’s official 2000 Jubilee Programme. Songs from the show were performed in front of Pope John Paul II in Rome during the Jubilee in May of that year.