The Bootleg Superstar of Gettysburg College
Musselman Library / 2016 / 302 pages / illustrated
On March 25, 1971, in the campus chapel of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, an illegal performance of Jesus Christ Superstar was staged. As the spontaneous project of a few dozen students, a handful of professors, and a renegade seminarian, the production had sprung from impulses both spiritual and secular. Excitement grew as musicians and technicians were gathered, and performance rights negotiated. Then, quite suddenly, legal action was threatened by UK pop impresario Robert Stigwood – to whom those rights belonged – against any group staging the opera ahead of its Broadway premiere.
Unbowed, the cast and crew put the show on anyway, braving the law and the Stigwood organization to stage a raw, moving performance of a work yet to be claimed by Broadway, Hollywood, and decades of worldwide touring. Though publicized by word of mouth alone, the event drew people from miles away, and on the night of March 25, the chapel was filled to overflowing. But that wasn’t the end of a story that would ultimately pull in both the college administration and the Lutheran church, and touch such unlikely locations as the courtrooms of New York City and a historic address in London.
Richly illustrated, drawing on original documents, recordings, and interviews, Jesusmania! tells the funny, dramatic, inspiring story of this outlaw production – the people it united, the obstacles it faced, and the memories it left. It also places the event in the context of its era, showing how music, protest, and experiment fused, for a magic moment, on one American campus at the end of the wildest decade of the twentieth century.
I just finished reading Jesusmania! It is a wonderful book that brought back some fond memories and nostalgia for the time. — Gordon
Thanks so much for all you have done. I'm reading your book and it is wonderful. Many memories have taken me away! — Betty-Lynn
It is an excellent read. [It] has captured the essence of that time and I am sure the essence of Gettysburg College as well. Reading the quotes, it was exactly the way we spoke about the late ‘60s-early ’70s. — Karen
As someone who was a student at Gettysburg at the time and attended the performance, it was very interesting to read about the behind-the-scenes work involved in getting the production off the ground. And seeing many familiar faces among the photos brought back many fine memories. — Judy
I just finished and loved the book. I had sent it to my G-burg roommate for Xmas and she loved it too. We lived on the second floor of Musselman Hall and could hear the various rehearsals drifting across the quad. I remember we ran across to listen when we realized it was the live performance day. Thanks for filling in all the pieces of a great story. — Suzy
Your book brought everything back in living color. . . . You reminded me of events and people I'd forgotten and gave me a glimpse into the lives of people I thought I knew but maybe didn't know so well. . . . You made something durable and unique, emotional and reflective in equal doses. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this gift. — Richard
I read it as slowly as I could, in little bits . . . because early on I realized I did not want it to end! I thoroughly enjoyed the back story, getting to know the players, learning all attempts to bypass the impediments, and in the end, where they all are now. . . . You touched an important part of me, and I am grateful. — Jill
I am a child of the sixties, but I came into adulthood in the seventies. Thus, I had a sense of the changes, the dynamism, the energy, the idealism – without really living them fully. There is sometimes a sadness there, especially if I place that time in the context of 21st century America. I am aware that your book helped me to touch that sad place, but with much more detail and appreciation. While I strive to live in the present, it is still interesting to learn of my past – thank you. — Chris