For one, the opening number is sung by Judas, which tells us immediately that this is going to be different to your average Gospel retelling. Rather than portray Judas as the evil betrayer, he is a conflicted man, driven to turn Jesus in because of his deep concern and love for the man. This is clear from the first few lines of this number, in which Judas is actually begging Jesus to reconsider what he’s doing to save his life. It’s an interesting, somewhat brave take on the character, who despite the title, could probably be seen as the protagonist of this story.
There are three DVD releases of Jesus Christ Superstar, and in each one, Heaven on Their Minds is a highlight. But while Jerome Pradon’s nuanced Judas from the 2000 production, and Tim Minchin’s recent spectacular turn, appear in recorded, staged musical productions, the initial 1973 version is cinematic, with breath-taking scenes of sparse desert surrounding Carl Anderson’s Judas, emphasising his isolation from Jesus and his followers. Anderson’s portrayal of the character is the most famous, and rightly so. His voice is quite simply spectacular, effortlessly capturing Judas’ desperation while maintaining perfect vocal control. Every other vocalist in the film, including the legendary Ted Neeley as Jesus, is wonderful, but it is Anderson who sets the bar, and he sets it high. His red catsuit is pretty awesome too.