The latest "Jesus Christ Superstar" project -- Indigo Girls, Reel Big Fish, and other musicians create their own version of the popular rock opera

By Christina Kelly
December 23, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

Given the ’90s obsession with all things ’70s, we shouldn’t be shocked that the 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar has risen from the dead. A 25-month, 116-city anniversary tour of the show, starring Styx’s Dennis DeYoung as Pontius Pilate and directed by Tony Christopher (choreographer for the 1976 production), moves to New York’s Paramount theater on Jan. 17. Also, Sandra Bernhard’s recent album, Excuses for Bad Behavior, Part 1, includes a sardonic version of the opera’s ”Everything’s Alright,” in which the repentant sinner Mary Magdalene seductively soothes Jesus. And on a more adventurous note, a group of Atlanta musicians has recorded Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection, with Indigo Girls Amy Ray as Jesus and Emily Saliers as Mary Magdalene. The album was released by Ray’s Daemon Records, and all profits will go to organizations that promote gun control.

The novel casting came from Michael Lorant, vocalist/drummer for the Atlanta rock group Big Fish Ensemble, who sings Judas’ part. ”I danced around in my one-piece pajama suit at the age of 6 to ‘What’s the Buzz,”’ he writes in the disc’s liner notes. ”I hosted many impromptu performances of the rock opera in my living room.” The obsessed Lorant talked Ray into the project, who then got Saliers involved. A former religion major at Emory University, Ray believes in Jesus (”although not in a really Christian way”) but says she’s more compelled by the psychology of the doubting Judas. ”His perspective is important,” she adds. ”Outside religion, it’s a really interesting story about human nature.” The final blessing for the born-again musical came when Tim Rice, the lyricist for the original Broadway production, heard about the project and left a message with Ray’s label voicing his approval. Says the blissed-out singer: ”I feel accepted into the realm of Jesus Christ Superstar.”

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