Does 'Jesus Christ Superstar' Signal a Rocking Future for Arena Theater?

A famous 1970s rock opera with a cast of actual rock and pop stars could be the litmus test for a new niche market in theatrical arena shows.

On June 9, Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Spectacular begins a 51-city tour at New Orleans' Lakefront Arena, the first date of an outing presented by musical co-writer Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group and event producer S2BN Entertainment, which is run by veteran Rolling Stones promoter Michael Cohl.

This high-tech restaging of the musical stars Incubus singer Brandon Boyd (Judas Iscariot), former Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams (Mary Magdalene), 'N Sync's JC Chasez (Pontius Pilate), former Sex Pistol Johnny "Rotten" Lydon (King Herod) and actor-singer Ben Forster (Jesus).

After considering different cast mixes, including one, says Cohl, with "lead Hollywood film types," the producers settled on this "exceptionally eclectic" iteration. He also says the production will "rival any major rock show seen in recent years."

Really Useful CEO Barney Wragg sees "enormous growth potential" in bringing similar, updated musical productions to traditional theater markets. Tickets in New Orleans run from $39.50 to $124.50, but both executives say it's too early to talk box office. Perhaps audiences will look at the show from the perspective of Boyd, who says, "It seemed too cool, weird and potentially fun to turn down." 


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