Updated musical gives modern touches to 'iconic classic'

It might not be possible to tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth in a way that will stir as much controversy as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's “Jesus Christ Superstar” did when it debuted in 1969, but their version can be reimagined in ways that can make the story relevant to even modern audiences. And that's just what Imagine Productions intends with its production this weekend at the Northland Performing Arts Center.

“It's been done before, but updating the show to the present day opens up a whole new world of possibilities,” director Douglas Shaffer said. “We're breaking some preconceived gender ideas, making some of the apostles and Pharisees women. Even in today's society, those positions would not necessarily be women.”

Pontius Pilate is imagined as a [non-specific] politician of the day. King Herod is portrayed as the host of a reality show. Jesus' followers are given an “Occupy Wall Street sort of look,” Shaffer said. The Last Supper is pizza and beer.

None of which is intended to alter the story, but to “breathe fresh life into an iconic classic,” Shaffer said.

A band will accompany the songs, which include now-classic entries into the music theater songbook including “Superstar,” “Gethsemane” and “I Don't Know How to Love Him.”