A classic musical which helped to change the face of theatre returns to the region next month.
At the helm of Jesus Christ Superstar will be loincloth-clad Glenn Carter, who will be bringing the role he played in the West End to Tyneside.
It promises to be an explosive new production of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber creation, which went on to shape the genre of rock opera.
Glenn has played the iconic role on the West End, Broadway and in film, and says he’s looking forward to returning to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal from September 14-19 as part of the UK tour.
The actor, whose musical theatre credits include Whistle Down the Wind, Les Misérables, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Godspell and Merrily We Roll Along, said: “It’s a geniusly written piece of musical theatre with a wonderful story.
“It’s a brilliant role to play. As an actor it has some of the most complex scenes you could play, that take you one of the most emotional journeys you can embark upon as an actor.
I play him like I play other characters, like Tommy in Jersey Boys. I don’t believe I’m them, or that I will influence their life in any way if I get it wrong. I just play them with an emotional truth.Glenn Carter
“In Judas, you have betrayal that leads to death and in Christ you have the emotional journey of him sacrificing his own life for humankind.”
From the pen of musical theatre legends Rice and Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar exploded onto the musical scene in 1971.
It went on to change the face of musicals with its rock opera take on the last seven days in the life of Jesus through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.
The score features tracks including I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Everything’s Alright, Gethsemane and Superstar.
Speaking about what people can expect from the show, which also stars X Factor finalist Rachel Adedeji as Mary Magdalene, Glenn said: “For people who like the show, it’s the same music done in the same brilliant way. But it’s impossible to do a show in exactly the same way because people have different personalities, which they bring to the piece.”
The musical was shown on a new platform in 2012 when Andrew Lloyd Webber launched a search for a new Jesus on prime-time ITV show Superstar. The role was won by Sunderland’s Ben Forster, who went on to tour the show in arenas.
Glenn said: “I did the film in 2000 which was released in 80-odd countries, it was very popular. I think it’s always had that popularity. When Ben did it, it was a different thing, in that it wasn’t intimate. It wasn’t the drama of the show, it was more the rock music as a spectacular, but it was great as it feeds all types of interest in musical theatre.”
The actor says the show was ground-breaking when it first raised its curtain for audiences more than 40 years, with a controversial subject matter.
“At the time, it was the first time Jesus had been played on stage and the first time there had been rock music in musical theatre,” he said. “It led the way for other musicals, such as Godspell and Hair. It was ground-breaking and iconic, but it can never be clichéd because it will always be the original, whereas others can become dated. As a piece of theatre it created the rock opera genre, and it’s always powerful.”
Religion, of course, is a very personal issue.
And though Glenn’s own beliefs may differ from those that form the focus of the show, he says it doesn’t affect his acting.
Glenn is the longtime leader of the British branch of the international UFO religion, the Raëlian Movement, which believes that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials.
“I was brought up as Church of England, which believes in Jesus, but I’m an athiest,” he said. “I think some people feel a pressure playing Jesus, but I don’t feel that, because I don’t believe that he was the son of god.
“I play him like I play other characters, like Tommy in Jersey Boys. I don’t believe I’m them, or that I will influence their life in any way if I get it wrong. I just play them with an emotional truth.”
Speaking more about the movement, which doesn’t subscribe to evolution or deities, he said: “It is like Buddhism, but a scientific Buddhism, it’s the same spiritual philosophy, there’s no mysteries. Like Buddhism, it’s an athiest religion. We don’t believe in a God, in the Torah, there is no word for God, he has no name.”
Glenn has been part of the movement for more than two decades.
“I was in my early 20s when it was a young movement,” he explained. “25 years later, it is popular, but there is so much press that creates a stigma around it and I think it makes people afraid. A lot of young people have lost their sense of adventure.
“Many have a religion chosen for them at birth, but we don’t believe in baptism. We teach our children all of the great religions and they can choose their own, we don’t impose it upon them. You don’t tell a child what job they have to do, or choose who they should marry, so why choose their religion?”
•Jesus Christ Superstar is at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal from September 14-19. Tickets from £13 can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office, on 08448 11 21 21, or book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.
•We’ve teamed up with Theatre Royal to give away a pair of tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar on opening night.
To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: what was the name of the talent show to find a new Jesus in 2012?
B) Pop Idol
C) The X Factor
Email your answer and daytime contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk
Closing date: September 3.