Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

What’s the buzz? Jesus Christ Superstar, which debuted on stage over 40 years ago, is being reimagined for the 21st century as an arena rock spectacular.  A  North American arena tour of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ground-breaking rock musical is scheduled hit the road this summer with an extraordinary cast of rock, pop and R&B superstars.  The 50+ city tour kicks off in New Orleans at the Lakefront Arena on June 9. Stops will include Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City and more, before culminating in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Arena on August 17.

British actor/singer Ben Forster, who starred in UK and Australian arena tours of Jesus Christ Superstar, will star as Jesus. Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child will take the female lead as Mary Magdalene. Incubus lead vocalist Brandon Boyd is confirmed for the role of Judas Iscariot. JC Chasez of NSYNC will play Pontius Pilate. John Rotten Lydon will play King Herod.

Tickets for the first 22 shows, New Orleans through Edmonton, will go on sale beginning Friday, April 11 at www.jesuschristsuperstar.com. All subsequent market on-sale dates will be announced locally in the weeks to come.

The North American arena productions come on the heels of successful UK and Australian arena tours that began in the UK in September 2012 and commenced in Australia in May 2013.

“Jesus Christ Superstar began life as a rock album,” recalls Andrew Lloyd Webber,” “…probably because nobody believed back in 1969 that you could present a stage musical about the last days of the life of Jesus Christ.  I shall never forget its first live performance in the Civic Arena, Pittsburgh on July 12th 1971.  Of course JCS subsequently became a legit theatre stalwart, but I, personally, have always hankered after seeing it again in the arenas where it started.”

Tim Rice adds “In 1971 Andrew and I were thrilled by the first-ever Jesus Christ Superstar tour of the United States…We certainly did not imagine then that 43 years later we would be witnessing another America-wide tour of our first big hit show. We are delighted and grateful that enthusiasm for Superstar has been maintained over the years and this new production presents the work in its most powerful format – as a true rock experience.”
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Coming UP. UP TV continues to build its UPlifting Entertainment brand. The network has scheduled the UP Original Movie Where’s The Love? for Saturday, May 3 at 7:00 PM (ET). The romantic drama, filmed in Atlanta, is about married TV talk show hosts (Lamman Rucker and Denise Boutte) who dispense relationship advice even as their marriage starts to crumble.  Trey Haley (The Man in 3B, Note to Self) directs the film from a script by Cas Sigers-Beedles (UP’s Sugar Mommas, Love Will Keep Us Together). 

Meanwhile, in Chilliwack (outside of Vancouver, Canada), production has begun on another UP Original Movie. The romcom Match Made in Heaven stars Samaire Armstrong (Resurrection) as a senior minister at a crossroads both professionally and in her love life. The film is produced by Front Street Pictures’ Harvey Kahn (UP’s Far From Home) and executive produced by Michael M. Scott and Libby Beers.  Scott also directs the film from an adapted script by Cara J. Russell.

The lighthearted film, based on Beth Pattillo’s Heavens to Betsy, tells the story of Reverend Casey Hart (Samaire Armstrong) and her match-making parishioners who don’t necessarily believe that a woman should be a minister.

“From the start, we were really impressed by this funny, moving look behind-the-pulpit tale based on real-life minister and author Beth Pattillo’s novel as adapted by Cara J. Russell,” says UP Original Programming SVP Barbara Fisher who adds “The story is a nice fit for UP’s audience.  Plus, we are lucky to have the beautiful, funny, relatable Samaire Armstrong leading the ensemble cast as Reverend Casey Hart. ”

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Ragamuffin is set to release on DVD May 6, 2014. The Ragamuffin, based on the life and legacy of best-selling Christian music singer/songwriter Rich Mullins, will release first exclusively in Walmart retail stores through Millennium Entertainment followed by a nationwide CBA retail release on July 8 through Capitol Christian Distribution.

The Ragamuffin Movie Tour launched earlier this year and is currently screening the film across the nation.  Debuting to a sold-out house at the Orpheum Theatre in January, the tour will run through May 2014 hosting screenings in small venues – churches, college campuses, community theaters, etc. You can find a theater near you where the film is screening by going to: www.itickets.com/ragamuffin

Produced by Color Green Films, Ragamuffin stars Michael Koch as Rich Mullins. The film is written by Ashleigh Phillips and David Leo Schultz and is produced and directed by Schultz. Additional producers include David Mullins (Rich’s younger brother), David Holechek and Ryan Bodie. Ragamuffin showcases several members of the Mullins’ family and features the talents of Schultz (as Sam); Wolfgang Bodison (Bryan); James Kyson (Matt); Mel Fair (John Mullins); Carson Aune (Justin); Elizabeth Ann Roberts (Jess) and Michelle Keller (Neva Mullins). The film’s title comes from A Ragamuffin Band, a band name that was inspired by Brennan Manning’s book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel.”
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment to release Tyler Perry’s Medea’s Neighbors From Hell (The Play) on DVD, Digital HD, Video on Demand and Pay-Per-View on April 22. Taped in in front of a live audience, the first Madea stage play since the fan-favorite production of Madea Gets A Job, comes on the heels of the recent theatrical release of Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. Tyler Perry stars as Madea who shows her troubled neighbors that love and forgiveness are at the heart of a family. Perry is joined on stage by Cassi Davis (TV’s House of Payne) as the irreverent Aunt Bam and Wess Morgan (Laugh to Keep from Crying).
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Magazine addresses Sex & Faith in America. The new Christian women’s magazine WHOAwomen takes up the provocative topic in the issue which just hit stands this weekend. April 5. The editor, Laine Lawson Craft, says she hopes to  is breaking down barriers and open up a new avenue for people to talk about healthy marital  sex between and man and a woman.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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