Time Warp, 1975: Scranton Embraces ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

March 28, 2018 GMT

Dec. 17, 1975: As Scrantonians prepared to celebrate the birth of Jesus, some 1,800 people took time to experience a rock opera dealing with his death.

The tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s iconic rock musical, came to the city’s Masonic Temple for one night only. The show starred Robert Corff as Jesus, Thomas Young as Judas, Prissy Lancaster as Mary Magdalene, William Stenson as Caiaphas and Alan Martin as King Herod.

A review of the show in the Dec. 21 edition of The Scranton Times found that all those performers did extremely well in their roles. Heavy applause followed Lancaster’s performance of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” the reviewer wrote, and Young received a curtain call and standing ovation for his portrayal of Judas.

The review also mentioned that the use of a fog machine in this touring production was a first for Scranton.

This show might have been the first official production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” to come to Scranton, but it actually was the show’s second coming. On Sept. 26, 1971, a few weeks before the musical’s Broadway debut, the American Rock Opera Company performed an unofficial version called “Super Star” for 4,000 people at University of Scranton’s Long Center.

Since 1975, the show has played Scranton several times. A January 1994 production featured Ted Neeley as Jesus. Neeley, who played that role on Broadway and in the 1973 film version, returned to Scranton with the show in 2007 and 2010.

This Sunday, R&B superstar John Legend will portray Jesus in a live production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” on NBC. Legend served as music director at Bethel AME Church in Scranton for several years in the mid 1990s while attending University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Legend’s costars for the Easter production include Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, Alice Cooper as King Herod and Ben Daniels as Pontius Pilate.

Contact the writer: bfulton@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9140; @TTPagesPast on Twitter

If you watch

What: “Jesus Christ Superstar Live”

When: Sunday, April 1, 8 p.m.

Where: NBC (WBRE channel 28)

Details: Visit nbc.com/jesus-christ-superstar?nbc=1.