Jesus Christ Superstar meets Oslo Norway

Jesus Christ Superstar on the Norwegian scene is of little doubt a successful mix of rock music, religion and opera. It’s a breath taking modern rock opera, with Hans-Erik Dyvik Husby or ‘Hank von Helvete’ (eng: Helvete = Hell) as Jesus. The Bible story is reinterpreted into modern Oslo in 2009, with junkies, gangsters and prostitutes in the cityscape and Jesus as a rather ordinary man with tattoos and a fur coat.

I had the pleasure of enjoying this sparkling show with my wife some weeks ago and gladly share it with you. I shot some photos with my Nokia mobile N82 – not the best lightening, so bare with me on the quality (click all pick to bigify & enjoy!):

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Jesus has resurrected for the second time – this time at The Norwegian Theatre in Hank von Helvete’s figure, accompanied by intense rock music, contemporary references and tight leather pants. It can not be anything but magical, religious and a bit controversial when the biblical story is re-enacted on stage this fall.
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We meet people in the city’s abyss; addicts, beggars, criminals, prostitutes and the lepers, are all in Jesus’ inner circle. We follow Jesus, Mary Magdalene and a small but talented voice of Judah through the last week in the life of Jesus:
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From the arrival in Jerusalem until his crucifixion:
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In Israel, where palm leaves are replaced with demonstration posters:
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Peter deniers is a wannabe gangster in a jogging suit and King Herod reminds suspiciously of Hugh Hefner as he splashes in a swimming pool full of blonde bimbo-luscious lady friends. Both Jesus himself and his gang have gone through a grand reform of 2009:
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A modern rock prophet:
I have of course seen the movie in the 70s. However here we saw Jesus as a modern rock prophet – it was actually much paradoxical behind Hank von Helvete’s performance in the Jesus figure. But that is precisely what makes the performance so believable and explosive. Jesus appears no longer as a poor guy in sandals, but rather a rebellious rocker in Baris with tattoos, leather pants and bling bling. He is fearless, rock and tough. We love him, and cheer for him!

Judas – a repentant sinner:
Also, Judas Iscariot, the traitor, has gone through various extreme transformations in this version. He appears bearing a striking reference in appearance and posture of musician and nark addict Pete Doherty. As a repentant sinner Judas receives champagne and a tremendous check as he betrays Jesus to the Pharisees. In contrast to the biblical story, Judas here shows clear signs of remorse and guilt, in light of the fact that his actions are morally unjustified, and in his own best intentions. A small man with an amazingly powerful voice, he is the real star in this musical according to many critics.

A successful mix:
There is little doubt that rock music, religion and the opera is a successful mixture on the Norwegian scene. I guess most of you know the musical was first written in 1970 by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and it has been presented several places in Norway since 1990. For sure it was about time to bring it back to the Norwegian stage and just to enjoy an amazing performance where old meets new, conservative meetings controversies, and political disagreements and ideologies are put on the agenda again, in the light of day.

Actually it was my wife DianeCA’s second time seeing this show and she made a post about it too, saying: “I don’t think Jesus Christ Superstar will ever be presented in this way anyplace else in the world at any time…it was really a once in a lifetime experience. Unless of course I drag along Renny and see it one more time before it closes!!” – She did and now I suggest you hop over and read her report (including a press video from the show!).

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  1. Very interesting interpretation! I keep on hearing about it (I think either Diane or you mentioned the play before) but I have yet to see it.

  2. I don’t think it would be quite my cup of tea, but I’m glad you and Diane enjoyed the play, Renny.

    Have a great rest of your week, my friend. :-)

    Love and hugs,


  3. Lucky you! I never had the chance to see it life – I have to confess I never really payed attention to it when it was “in town” – but now that I read your account, it really make me want to see it. Thanks for the good review.

  4. That must have been so much fun! I love going to the theatre. I actually have an incredibly stupid question: are musicals and plays translated into Norwegian there or performed in their original languages?

    It was translated into Norwegian which made it even more alive and up to date.

  5. Because I have seen the original play, Renny, I know I would love this Norwegian version. I think it really makes you realize how “radical” Jesus was in his day and time! I love it…and Diane’s post, as well.

  6. Jesus Christ Superstar made a powerful impact on me when it first appeared as an album in 1970. I bought it as a vinyl LP and almost wore it out. It came with a libretto so I could read the lyrics as I listened to it. It took liberties with the language and showed Jesus and Judas both in more human terms than scripture but I didn’t think it was that far off.

    Other than the rock genre it did two things that some found controversial. It presented an ambiguous relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and it cast Judas in a more redeeming light than is usual.

    Sometime between the original recording and the 1973 movie, it toured as a concert and I saw it when it was in Tulsa. It was essentially a concert performance. There were no sets and very little acting out of the parts. The soloists made appropriate gestures. I remember Herod dancing a little jig while singing “So you are the Christ, the great Jesus Christ….” But it was the music that told the story. It left the imagination to interpret the motives of the characters. This to me was the definitive version.

    I did not see the Broadway stage version but did see the movie when it came out in 1973. I thought it stunk. The staging, the acting made everything look garish and rude. I did not think it did justice to the original rock opera. I probably would not care for the Norwegian version.

    Admittedly, my opinion is coloured by the fact that I am a card carrying Christian. Not a fundamentalist for sure, but as one who has deep respect for the passion story. There is plenty of room for discussion and interpretation, but I am less enthusiastic about ridicule.

    We might have different views, but I sincerely want to thank you for taking your time to tell your story and your engagement in the discussion. That kind of participation means a lot to me and enriches the subject.

  7. I remember this play going all over the states but I never did get to see it. Then I think they made a movie out of the play and I never saw that one either so I guess I need to rent the movie because this sounds very interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Love and Blessings,

  8. My wife and I love this musical! We watch the movie every year near Easter. Any chance the Norwegian version will be filmed?
    Sounds like an excellent production.


  9. The Norvegian version seems really interesting. I hope to Have the chance to see a rock version one day. Like you I think this is really a nice experiment and so interesting to hear this opera version. Contreverse is also interesting. When you can have the freedom to see a such show in places of the world it’s the sign there is still place for art and freedom. Opened mind is better than closed one.

  10. Thanks for this post Renny. I, of course, saw the movie here in Canada when it first came out and enjoyed it, although some of the theological nuances of it are indeed controversial as you pointed out, and not necessarily faithful to or an accurate picture of the Gospel accounts. Jesus himself being a radical (i.e. getting at the root of things) certainly “rocked the boat” not in a rock-and-roll kind of way mind you, although who knows? he might enjoy this genre of music. At any rate, if the rock opera in Norway serves to point people to the church and a more careful reading and study of the Gospels, and exploration of faith, then it will have served a greater purpose.

  11. Hello Renny!
    I put the link to your blog on the web Visit Norway in spanish lenguage. Recommending to all you passionate Norway should visit your blog.
    A bear Hug

  12. Hey Renny,

    Awesome post!!
    I like this version of Lord Webber’s musical: it is modern, provocative and appealing.

    I tend to see Jesus a bit differently than many: I too, do not see him as a poor man with sandals…I see him as a gorgeous Middle Eastern man, with a brilliant mind. I am not Christian, so the way I perceive him and his teachings is a bit diverse…

    I also imagine that Judas felt guilty after what he has done, but he must have known that it was all part of the prophecy. However, it was nice that this opera explored that side, since rarely people do.

    You did so well to invite me to check this post: thanks, man :D! What a delight!


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