Jesus Christ Superstar

by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Time Rice

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Act II Summary

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Act II: The Last Supper
The apostles indulge in the Last Supper as a meal and not as sacrament, until Jesus sings, ‘‘This is my blood you drink / This is my body you eat.’’ But their blank faces tell Jesus that they will forget him after he dies. His announcement that one of them will betray him raises protests from all but Judas, who takes it up as a challenge to do so. Judas departs, the apostles drift off to sleep, and Jesus sinks into lonely contemplation. He begins to question his fate, to question God and his own earthly mission. As his resolve fades, he accuses God, ‘‘You’re far too keen on where and how but not so hot on why.’’ But getting no cosmic encouragement, he steels himself for the ordeal to come, so that he can see God at last. At the end of the scene, Judas kisses Jesus on the cheek, and Jesus asks him, ‘‘Judas, must you betray me with a kiss?’’

Act II: The Arrest
As the Roman soldiers arrive to arrest Jesus, the apostles struggle awake and sleepily retrieve their swords. Jesus calms them and goes willingly with the soldiers, who shove him along. On his way, a crowd surges around him, including Annas and Judas. Some taunt, ‘‘Now we’ve got him,’’ while others quiz the prisoner like copy-hungry television reporters hounding a film star, ‘‘What would you say were your big mistakes?’’ Caiaphas confirms the arrest with the gravity of a judge, sending the prisoner on to Pilate, who alone has the power of sentencing to death.

Act II: Peter’s Denial
A maid and her grandfather recognize Peter as one of the prisoner’s followers, which Peter three times denies. Mary reminds him that Jesus had predicted his behavior.

Act II: Pilate and Christ
Pilate reluctantly interviews the prisoner, realizing that he lost a measure of his control due to the crowd’s zeal to kill this man. He finds Christ’s calm amazing and wants not to hurt him. As a way of avoiding responsibility, Pilate then sends Christ on to King Herod (who was half Jewish), since Herod has legal jurisdiction over the Jews, ‘‘You’re Herod’s race! You’re Herod’s case!’’

Act II: King Herod’s Song
King Herod is an overweight, self-indulgent, and corrupt king surrounded by sycophants and living in depraved luxury. In a tightly choreographed ragtime song and dance, he taunts Christ to perform a miracle on demand, and when Jesus does not stir, he angrily sends him away. Meanwhile, Mary and Peter sing, ‘‘Could We Start Again, Please?’’

Act II: Judas’s death
Judas, wracked with guilt, accuses Annas and Caiaphas of hurting the victim he turned over to them. They repulse him, and his anguish increases as he sings an apology to Christ, shifting to his own rendition of Mary’s song, ‘‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him.’’ Realizing too late his own guilt, he hangs himself. The choir chants, ‘‘So long Judas / Poor old Judas.’’

Act II: Trial before Pilate
Caiaphas brings Jesus back to Pilate for a definitive execution. Still Pilate feels it too heavy a duty, and his interview of the prisoner seems like an attempt to find any excuse to release him, ‘‘I’ll agree he’s mad / Ought to be locked up / But that’s no reason to destroy him.’’ Jesus once again fails to supply anything but further proof of his divine immunity. Pilate agrees to flog Christ with thirtynine lashes, an extreme torture. Afterwards, Pilate tenderly lifts the broken man, but when Jesus tells Pilate he has no power, Pilate goes into a...

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rage and allows Christ’s ‘‘great self-destruction’’ to take place.

Act II: Superstar
Judas, somehow resurrected, presides over the walk with the cross and preparations for crucifixion, assisted by three choirs of ‘‘angels’’ who sing the ‘‘Superstar’’ reprise. Judas asks Jesus whether he shouldn’t have staged this show in a better era, since ‘‘Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication.’’ Christ dies simply, on the cross.

Act II: John Nineteen Forty-one
The show over, the actors repack and variously board the bus, some in a brisk businesslike manner and some, like Mary, casting a last wistful glance back at the set. The curtain falls.


Act I Summary