• Creative

Jesus Christ on Broadway

March 29, 2024

In celebration of Easter, let’s take a look at some of the representations of Jesus Christ on the Main Stem!


Godspell had a circuitous journey to becoming one of the most beloved Broadway musicals of all time. It premiered off-Broadway in 1971, a movie version was released in 1973, and the production was performed as far and wide as Tehran, Iran, before finally coming to Broadway in 1976. It also has an uncanny ability to create stars – its original Toronto production featured Victor Garber, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy, Gilda Radner, and Martin Short before they all became legends. The 2011 revival was the launchpad for Emmy winner Uzo Aduba, was Tony winner Joaquina Kalukango’s Broadway debut, and featured Lindsay Mendez before her Tony win and before her Elphaba days. 

Jesus Christ Superstar 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s first Broadway show might also be his strangest. A psychedelic rock musical about the final days of Jesus’ life, it took Broadway and the West End by storm in 1971. (a surprising bit of apocrypha in the show’s original program credits – gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk worked as the director’s assistant before moving back to San Francisco and running for office.) The show has been revived on Broadway three times, most recently in 2012 with Paul Alexander Nolan in the title role. Along with the 1973 Norman Jewison film, it was also adapted to television in 2018 with an all-star Broadway cast including Sara Bareilles, John Legend, and Brandon Victor Dixon.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee 

Jesus makes a quick cameo in this 2005 Tony-winning musical, inspiring constant overachiever Marcy Park to screw up a word and free herself from the pressures of the Bee. After getting eliminated in the Bee, the actor playing Chip Tolentino quickly swaps into a Biblical robe – in the original Broadway cast that was Here Lies Loves’ Jose Llana. 

The Book of Mormon 

The show’s prologue features a quick primer on Mormon theology, and Christ himself appears briefly. But Jesus shows back up in the act-2 showstopper “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream”, to scare Elder Price into doing the right thing. The dance number also includes cameos from Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Jonnie Cochran (it’s a bit of doozy.) 

And a special mention for Corpus Christi –

The late Terrence McNally, known for Broadway classics like Master Class and Ragtime, faced a great deal of backlash when he premiered his play Corpus Christi off-Broadway in 1998 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Similar to Jesus Christ Superstar, McNally mapped the story of the Gospels and the Crucifiction onto a modern day setting. To explore themes of homophobia and bigotry in Christianity, McNally imagines Jesus, Judas, and other disciples as gay men. A scene in which Jesus/”Joshua” and Judas kiss prompted protestors to picket the show’s opening night. (Norman Lear, Tony Kushner, and David Henry Hwang organized a counter-protest in support of McNally and MTC.) The original off-Broadway cast featured such future stars as Michael C. Hall, Anson Mount, Christopher Fitzgerald, and Jeremy Shamos. Productions of the play continue to face backlash, as recently as 2023.