The promise of the “Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Spectacular” was almost as huge as the story itself.
It would be a flashy framing of one of mankind’s most well-known narratives, packed with a roster of incongruous pop stars: JC Chasez from ’N Sync; Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child; Brandon Boyd from Incubus; and John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols.
The promotions were slick, with news conferences, YouTube videos, glossy head shots. The stars were busy doing interviews, and rehearsals were in deep. But Friday, the “Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Spectacular” fell spectacularly to pieces.
Producers sent out a statement announcing the cancellation of the North American tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s iconic rock opera, with no reason. The statement said all tickets would be refunded. All pictures and videos of the cast were stripped from the website.
The tour was set to open in New Orleans on June 9, with stops at venues like Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center. It was slotted for July 31 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that ticket sales were not supporting the cost of the show. That was according to an e-mail from the tour’s promoter, Michael Cohl, who was a producer of infamous Broadway debacle “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”
The cast seemed blindsided by the news. Ben Forster, a British actor cast as Jesus, tweeted: “My heart is broken. My beautiful talented cast and company I adore. This wonderful show & opportunity is over. I’m so sorry I am devastated.” And Boyd, cast as Judas Iscariot, tweeted: “I got fired from JesusChristSuperstar today … but so did the rest of the cast so we’re all sad together. Yeah, it’s true. Tour cancelled.”
The day before Chasez lost his job, he was in New Orleans for rehearsals and offered no signs of trouble. He seemed focused on his role of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea, and delighted in dissecting Pilate’s moral fabric.
“We’ve been going through each scene almost line by line and talking about, what is the motivation here?” he said. “We’ve moved the setting into a modern time. We try to ask ourselves, if Pontius were around today, if we were dealing with a scenario like this today, what kind of authority figure would he be? Would he be a politician? Would he be a military man? Would he be a powerful businessman?”
The role was outside his comfort zone, he said, and he couldn’t lean on choreography. He had taken no other jobs because he wanted to focus on his first major attempt at theater.
“Of course, I jumped in with both feet with Webber and Rice,” he said. “It’s like, ‘You’re playing arenas! OK?’ ... When this came across my desk, essentially, it was immediate in my mind. I knew it. This is one of the most important stories in human history.”