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Characters / Jesus Christ Superstar

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The characters in the hit rock opera and musical Jesus Christ Superstar. As they are based upon characters in The Four Gospels, see also the character page for their biblical inspiration.

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    Jesus 

The leader of the Twelve Disciples; a man called the "Son of God" and the "King of the Jews."

  • Bishōnen: Particularly Glenn Carter's Jesus.
  • Born in the Wrong Century
    If you came today you could have reached the whole nation / Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication.
  • Break the Cutie: He's a kind and well-meaning preacher who feels overwhelmed by his ministry. Then, he's betrayed by one of his closest followers, arrested, tortured, denounced by several of his own people, and executed on trumped-up charges.
  • Celibate Hero: Well, unless the production goes that direction with his relationship with Mary Magdalene...
  • Crucified Hero Shot: The final scene of the music depicts Jesus on the cross.
  • Death by Adaptation: The play ends if we find out whether he resurrects or not.
  • Doomed by Canon: It's a given that he will be crucified by the Romans.
  • Heroic BSoD: "Gethsemane". He admits that his ministry has left him sad and exhausted, that he's terrified of his impending execution, and that he doesn't understand why God is allowing all of his trials and tribulations to happen.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Lets himself be crucified as per God's plan.
  • Hippie Jesus: Taken Up to Eleven in the 1973 film, where he is, for all intents and purposes, a hippie actor.
    • Most other productions tend to retain at least some aspects of the hippie look as well.
  • Hurting Hero
    Nail me to your cross and break me
    Bleed me, beat me
    Kill me, take me now
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness
  • Jesus Was Crazy: According to Pilate and Judas.
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: According to Mary Magdalene, Simon, and Caiaphas.
    Caiaphas: One thing I'll say for him, Jesus is cool.
  • Light Is Good: In many productions, he is dressed in white or off-white.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: He doesn't commit any miracles in the course of the play, and most productions leave the question of his divinity open-ended.
  • Metal Scream: Present in almost every version of "The Last Supper" and "Gethsemane", largely due to the Original Cast Precedent of Ian Gillan on the concept album.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Race Lift: Very much downplayed. Jesus of the Gospels was a Middle Eastern man, but most performances of Jesus Christ Superstar cast European fair skinned actors for the role of Jesus. In real life there are light-skinned Middle Eastern people who can pass for white Americans or Englishmen and the Jewish tribe to which Jesus was born to is known to have white skin. Albeit dark by Western European standards but real life Jesus's complexion would have resembled your stereotypical Sicilian or other Southern European.
    • Played completely straight in the 2018 NBC performance casts an African American performer as Jesus.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth
  • Unwitting Pawn: Of God himself. In the "Gethsemane" scene, Jesus doesn't realize what role his death will play in God's plan and can only hope that it will not be in vain.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Judas and the Council think Jesus is a revolutionary fomenting rebellion. In reality, violent revolution is the last thing Jesus wants.
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    Judas 

One of the Twelve Apostles, Judas was initially Jesus's right hand man but has grown concerned about the cult of personality surrounding Jesus, believing it's overgrown his teachings. His political and interpersonal disagreements with Jesus set the plot of the play in motion.

  • Alas, Poor Villain
    So long Judas
    Poor old Judas
  • Angry Black Man: In the original Broadway production, the original film, and 2018 live version. Although in the 2018 version, Judas is closer to Stressed-Out Black Man.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: He suffers a complete emotional breakdown after his betrayal of Jesus and subsequently hangs himself.
  • Anti-Villain: Portrayed very sympathetically throughout the play.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Depending on how you interpret his character, his being played by a balding young man who hasn't shaved recently in the 2000 version either subverts or plays it straight.
    • Tim Minchin in the 2012 tour makes a pretty convincing case for Judas being good.
    • That goes double for Josh Young in the 2012 Broadway revival
  • Betrayal by Inaction: He actually threatens to not betray Jesus just to spite him and God's plans.
  • Blatant Lies:
    (about Mary) "It's not that I object to her profession..."
    (to the high priests) "Jesus wouldn't mind that I'm here with you!"
  • BSoD Song: "Judas's Death", wherein he realizes that God chose him to be the one to betray Jesus.
  • Doomed by Canon: See Driven to Suicide, below.
  • Driven to Suicide: He hangs himself after betraying Jesus.
  • Evil Costume Switch: in the 2000 film, after betraying Jesus to the Pharisees, Judas takes off his jacket to show off his black shirt, and starts wearing red after committing suicide.
    • In the 2012 Live Arena tour, he wears grey and green, before switching to black post-suicide.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: In public, he's an angry, judgmental contrarian. Beneath the surface, he's worried about the future of Jesus' ministry, conflicted about betraying him, and later devastated by the harm he brought down on his friend.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: "You have murdered me! MURDERED ME! MURDERED..."
  • The Lancer: Serves as a foil to Jesus and calls him out on some of his beliefs and practices.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: "Judas's Death".
  • Necessarily Evil:
    I came because I had to; I'm the one who saw.
    Jesus can't control it like he did before.
  • Never My Fault: On a meta level - whilst other characters have the deeds accredited to them in the Bible presented in different ways to make them more or less sympathetic, Judas actually has negative aspects of his character removed entirely (such as his robbing from the Apostle's purse) to make him more sympathetic.
  • No Indoor Voice: in the original film.
  • Only Sane Man: Believes himself to be this.
  • Race Lift: Judas was a Middle Eastern man in the Gospels, but he's depicted as an African American man in some versions of Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: "Judas's Death".
    God, I'll never ever know
    Why you chose me for your crime
    For your foul bloody crime.
  • The Resenter: He's jealous of Mary, calling her out for her past involvement in prostitution. He's also distrustful of Jesus.
  • Slut-Shaming: Chastises Jesus for associating with a woman of Mary's profession.
  • Sour Supporter: He admires Jesus, but strongly disagrees with a lot of his actions and proclamations.
  • Supporting Protagonist: The story is largely told from his perspective.
  • Tears of Remorse: After he sees the extent of Jesus's punishment at the hands of the Romans.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Of God, no less.
    My God, I am sick.
    I've been used!
    And you knew
    All the time!
  • Villainous Breakdown: During "Judas's Death", he's overwhelmed with grief and guilt for betraying Jesus. His cocky assertiveness is gone, replaced by anguish.

    Simon Zealotes 

A belligerent apostle who urges Jesus to lead his followers into battle against the Romans.

    Peter 

One of the Twelve Apostles, prophesized to deny Jesus three times.

  • Angry Black Man: Peter gets a bit of this in the 2000 film.
  • Karma Houdini: Judas: Betray Christ once, suicide and eternal damnation. Peter: Deny Christ three times, become the first pope.
    • YMMV, as he also was the only of the Apostles to follow after Jesus, even when he told them to make a break for it.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: He's overcome with shame after he publicly denies being one of Jesus' followers.

    Mary Magdalene 

The only major female character in the play - formerly a prostitute, now a follower of Jesus who finds herself falling in love with him.

    Caiaphas 

The high priest who sees Jesus as a threat to the nation.

  • Anti-Villain: He's an arrogant religious leader who arranges for an innocent man's arrest and execution. However, he did so because he honestly believed that Jesus' followers were about to carry out a rebellion, which would have prompted the Roman occupiers to crush Judea in retaliation.
  • Bald, Black Leader Guy: The 2000 version.
  • Basso Profundo: The role of Caiaphas is traditionally given to men with voices in the deepest vocal range.
  • The Chessmaster: He plays a major role in Jesus' arrest, having convinced Judas to reveal Jesus' wearabouts and urging the Roman authorities to crucify Jesus.
  • Evil Costume Switch: He wears a blood red robe in the 1973 film during the trial.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: He's the only bass in the show, and one of the few in all of music theater. (Not only that, he's actually a basso profundo, which is rarer still).
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: In the 1973 film and the 2018 NBC performance, Caiaphas and the other priests wear black clothing, in contrast to Jesus' white clothing.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: He believes that the actions of Jesus will have negative repercussions for the entire Jewish race.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: In the 2018 NBC version, Caiaphas and the other priests are wearing long black coats covered with geometric patterns, making them look both futuristic and sinister.
  • Kick the Dog: It's pretty damn cruel to mock Judas for having been paid 'pretty good wages for one little kiss' in betraying Jesus when Caiaphas forced him to accept the money to give to charity as a 'fee' to begin with.
    • Pet the Dog: Oddly enough, in the 1973 film he and Anna's both place comforting hands on Judas' shoulders after this.
  • Large Ham: "FOOOOOLS! YOU! HAVE NO PERCEPTION! THE STAKES WE ARE GAMBLING ARE FRIGHTENINGLY HIGH!"
  • Necessarily Evil: See I Did What I Had to Do, above. He believed that Jesus' followers were about to launch a rebellion, which could have thrown Judea into chaos.
  • The Needs of the Many: The stated rationale for the priests' actions:
    Caiaphas: For the sake of the nation, this Jesus must die!
  • Scary Black Man: His 2000 version is a commanding, intimidating, black man.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Contrasted with high-voiced Annas, who is usually played by a countertenor.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: With Annas.
  • Villain Respect: In earlier versions of the music, he thinks "Jesus is cool" for not openly preaching violence against Rome. Averted in later versions, in which his line about Jesus' coolness is replaced with "Infantile sermons; the multitudes drool".
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Caiaphas is driven by a desire to avoid 'blood and destruction' against the Jews.
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    Annas 

A Jewish priest, Caiaphas's second-in-command.

  • Age Lift: In history he was the older man and Caiaphas' father-in-law, most productions present him as a younger Smug Snake sidekick.
  • Bald of Evil: In the 2000 film and the 2018 NBC performance.
  • The Dragon: To Caiaphas.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: In the 1973 film and the 2018 NBC performance, Annas and the other priests wear black clothing, in contrast to Jesus' white clothing.
  • Impossibly Cool Clothes: In the 2018 NBC version, Annas and the other priests are wearing long black coats covered with geometric patterns, making them look both futuristic and sinister.
  • Jerkass:
    • He makes no attempt to hide his contempt for the "carpenter king", who he calls a "hero of fools". He also sneers at Jesus' followers, calling them "blockheads" and "half-witted fans" who could easily get out of control.
    • He makes no attempt to empathize with a distraught Judas, dismissing his emotional breakdown as histrionics.
    Annas: Cut the confessions. Forget the excuses. I don't understand why You're filled with remorse.
  • Lack of Empathy: The coldest of the priests, who says he can't really understand why Judas is filled with remorse for betraying Jesus since he 'backed the right horse' in the end.
  • Race Lift: In the 2018 NBC version, he's played by Jin Ha, who (as his name suggests) is East Asian.
  • Smug Snake: He sneers at the early Christians' devotion to Jesus, but fails to understand what Jesus stands for or what his death will achieve.
  • Soprano and Gravel: He is played by a countertenor, which is the highest of male voices, to contrast him with Badass Bass Caiaphas.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: With Caiaphas.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Like Caiaphas, Annas is driven by a desire to save the Jewish people from Rome's wrath.

    Pontius Pilate 

The Governor of Judea tasked with Jesus's trial.

  • Alliterative Name: Pontius Pilate.
  • Anti-Villain: He harbors no ill will toward Jesus and admits that he has no legal grounds to execute him. He feels anguish when forced to choose between punishing an innocent man and allowing his angry subjects to get out of control.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Fred Johanson takes this to epic proportions in the 2000 film, as does Ben Daniels in the 2018 NBC performance.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come:"Pilate's Dream", in which he meets with Jesus and is responsible for his death.
  • Ignored Epiphany: Takes little no no note of his prophetic dream.
  • Large Ham/Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "What! Do! You mean! By! That? That! Is not! An aaaanswer!"
  • Mundane Made Awesome: He counts along while Jesus is flogged to the tune of heavy metal guitar.
  • Out, Damned Spot!: I wash my hands of your demolition!.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: He does not want to execute Jesus and insists that Jesus has committed no crime. Peer pressure from the priests and the mob drives him to have Jesus flogged, then to foist Jesus' case onto Herod instead of setting him free.
    The Mob: Remember Caesar! You have a duty to keep the peace, so crucify him! Remember Caesar! You'll be demoted! You'll be deported! Crucify him!"
  • Putting on the Reich: In the 2000 film.
  • Shaming the Mob:
    • He lambasts the mob screaming for Jesus to be crucified, since he sees Jesus as a harmless crazy man being used as a scapegoat by the mob for the revolutionary rumblings his presence set off.
    • He also calls members of the crowd hypocrites for insisting, "We have no king but Caesar", pointing out that they hate the Roman occupiers more than they hate Jesus.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Unwilling to execute a man, he first orders Jesus to be whipped instead.

    Herod 

The King of Galilee; Jesus is brought to him for judgment after first being taken to Pilate.

  • Berserk Button: Ignoring him and not performing the miracles he wants makes Herod positively explode.
  • Camp Straight: For all his camp and debauchery, he's a married man.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The only unashamedly evil character and is not suffering an existential crisis.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Alice Cooper delivers a flamboyant performance as Herod, complete with dancing girls, during the 2018 NBC performance.
  • Fat Bastard: In the 70s production, Herod is noticeably paunchy and quite the nasty jerk.
  • Game Show Host: Chris Moyles' portrayal. His segment parodied Britain's Got Talent and he asked the audience to text in to vote if Jesus was a god or fraud.
  • God Test: Tries to goad Jesus into proving he's the son of God by performing miracles.
  • Ironic Echo: Jesus says "Get out!" first when clearing the temple then to Judas. Herod drives him away with the same words.
  • Large Ham: Oh yes!
  • Royal Brat: Interested in getting things his way, having fun and enjoying life.
  • Sissy Villain: Some performances depict him as effete and flamboyant.
  • Walk on Water: In the 2012 tour, when he tells Jesus to walk across his swimming pool, an image of Herod walking across one appears in the background.

    God 
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