How the Rock Opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Reinterpreted Judas Iscariot as Sympathetic Character

Music essayist Noah LeFevre of Polyphonic (previously) took a look at the classic Andrew Lloyd Weber/Tim Rice collaboration Jesus Christ Superstar. LeFevre first notes that the songwriting duo wanted to tell a biblical story as a rock opera and recruited the right voices for each part, including Ian Gillan of Deep Purple playing the role of Jesus Christ. Murray Head, an unknown singer with an incredible voice played Judas Iscariot.

Throughout the centuries, the name Judas has become synonymous with traitor due to Iscariot’s betrayal, yet Weber and Rice chose to make Judas Iscariot a sympathetic character who dearly loved his friend but had concerns about his behavior as a leader. Due to his misgivings, Judas allowed Jesus to be arrested, not realizing that this arrest would lead to a death sentence.

While Jesus is being tried, Judas is rocked by his own conscious. …Judas returns to the priests in desperation, regretting his action. …Judas really loved Jesus and did what he thought would be best for his friend. It’s a painful, tragic end for our main character.