Russian City Cancel Jesus Christ Superstar Concert

A theater in one of Russia’s largest cities has canceled a planned performance of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” following protests by an organization of conservative Orthodox Christians.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a 1970 rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical started as a rock opera concept album before its Broadway debut in 1971. The songs were first written and conceived as a concept album, before the musical was created and staged.

The show, by a troupe from St. Petersburg, was to have been staged November 1, 2016.  in Omsk, Russia’s seventh-most-populous city. But a local group called “Family, Love, and Fatherland” filed a complaint that the musical mocked religious faith, according to Russian news reports.

This is not the first time as the Broadway show and subsequent productions were condemned by some religious groups. Tim Rice was quoted as saying "It happens that we don't see Christ as God but simply the right man at the right time at the right place." Some Christians considered such comments to be blasphemous, the character of Judas too sympathetic and some of his criticisms of Jesus offensive. At the same time, some Jews claimed that it bolstered the antisemitic belief that the Jews were responsible for Jesus' death by showing most of the villains as Jewish (Caiaphas and the other priests, Herod) and showing the crowd in Jerusalem calling for the crucifixion. The musical was banned in South Africa for being "irreligious". A 1972 production of the play was banned in the Hungarian People's Republic for "distribution of religious propaganda"

State television in Russia reported Tuesday that the performance had been called off. The decision comes amid growing conservative sentiment and resistance to Western popular culture in Russia.

In a statement, Amnesty International says the cancellation was “an affront to freedom of expression and the latest example of interference in Russian cultural life by nationalist ‘activists.’”

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