Fifty years ago today—on July 12, 1971—the first authorized U.S. performance of Jesus Christ Superstar was held at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena. It was a concert tour leading up to the show’s October launch on Broadway.
Two days later, the show came to Asbury Park, New Jersey. A review of that show called it “a fascinating and beautiful piece of music and ideas.”
The reviewer added, “It will be interesting to see what the Broadway version is like. Doesn’t seem as if it could beat this one.”
On October 27, 1970, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who would go on to become the most successful composer-lyricist team in modern theater history, released a double-LP “concept” album called Jesus Christ Superstar, which only later would become the smash-hit Broadway musical of the same name.
The album spawned a Top 40 single in versions of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” by both Yvonne Elliman and Helen Reddy, and it shot all the way to the top of the Billboard album charts in early 1971.
The original Broadway show debuted on October 12, 1971, and had 711 performances before closing in July 1973.
Since then, the franchise has included a 1973 movie along with other Broadway productions.