'Jesus Christ Superstar' U.S. arena tour to start in June


(Reuters) - Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1970s rock musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" will be resurrected with a 54-city U.S. summer tour, promoters said on Friday.

The tour of the musical, which will be staged in arenas rather than theaters, will kick off in New Orleans on June 9. The show, with lyrics by Tim Rice, chronicles the final days of the life of Jesus.

"There's always been to me something a little bit constraining about it in the theaters, like it's in a tiny bit of a straitjacket," Webber, whose hits include "Cats," "Evita" and "The Phantom of the Opera," told a press conference.

"'Jesus Christ Superstar' always really was a rock show," the Grammy Award-winning British composer added.

British actor Ben Forster, who plays the title role, said the tour "is my American dream about to come true."

Brandon Boyd, lead singer of the American rock band Incubus; Grammy Award-winner Michelle Williams of pop group Destiny's Child; and ex-'N Sync singer JC Chasez round out the cast. John Rotten Lydon, former frontman of the punk rock group the Sex Pistols, is also part of the cast.

Webber, Rice and concert promoter Michael Cohl are backing the arena tour of the musical, which was first performed in the United States in 1971.

Webber said the story of Jesus Christ is ubiquitous and timeless in Western culture.

"People have been writing about Jesus in particular, and Bible stories in general, for hundreds of years," he added. "It's always relevant, I think."

The arena show will rely heavily on video elements, staging that would have been almost impossible a few years ago because of the limitations in video technology.

It comes on the heels of successful productions in Britain and Australia in recent years. While Cohl wouldn't divulge costs of the tour, he indicated it cost more than $10 million to launch, saying the cost was in "eight figures."

"Superstar" was originally an album produced by Webber and Rice in September 1970. As Billboard's top pop record in 1971 it sold 7.5 million copies, outperforming George Harrison, John Lennon and Led Zeppelin, according to Cohl.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Leslie Adler)