I found this little gem by pure chance on Amazon ♥

Mary Magdalene and Jesus (JCS London 1996 with Steve Balsamo)    Joanna Ampil

Above- Steve Balsamo (Jesus) and Joanna Ampil (Mary Magdalene)

In regards to the 1996 cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar ….All I can say is just WOW !! For one the instrumentation is one of the best that I have ever heard it has a real “Rock feel” as it should I LOVE the saxophone! particularly in the song “Superstar” For any “Die Hard” Jesus Christ Superstar fans this CD is a MUST HAVE !!

The Cast

Jesus of Nazereth……Steve Balsamo

Judas Iscariot…..Zubin Varla

Mary Magdalene…..Joanna Ampil

Pontius Pilate…..David Burt

King Herod….Alice Cooper

Peter….Jonathan Hart

Annas….Martin Callaghan

Simon Zelotes….Glenn Carter

Ciaphas….Peter Gallagher

My Verdict

Well for one you really can’t beat Welsh singing voices in my opinion….there’s something about the amazing voice tone which Steve Balsamo has. He is a ONE OFF !! his voice is so unique not to mention his 3.5 octave vocal range. He’s very young in this recording (about 25) but his voice is mature and sublime to listen to…..he is AMAZING !! His falsetto is faultless….he makes it seem SO EASY !! I LOVE “The Last Supper” which really showcases it.  Even though he is 40 now, I still think that they should cast him as Jesus in the new 2014 Jesus Christ Superstar film instead of doing this Andrew Lloyd Webber “Superstar” search. Couldn’t they just make him look younger?

I LOVE Joanna Ampil as Mary Magdeline. I was lucky enough to see her live as Fantine in Les Miserables in the West End in the 2003-2004 cast. She has a wonderful voice, which is so beautiful and filled with emotion. Her version of “I don’t know how to love him” is up there with Yvonne Elliman’s (from the 1973 film) even though her voice type is very different she is incredible ! “Could we start again please?” her (duet with Jonathon Hart who plays Peter is simply stunning) and once again I felt really emotional !!

Zubin Varla’s Judas isn’t the best I’ve ever heard. His voice is a bit husky and harsh (not very pleasant on the ear) I don’t think anyone will live up to Carl Anderson’s high standard from the 1974 film….I LOVE his 1970’s rock voice….R.I.P 😦  ! So yeah I think Varla lets the sensational cast down a bit. I do like his version of “Damned for all time” though!

Simon Zelotes is also very good and I immediately realised it was Glenn Carter who played Jesus is the 2000 film. Even though his voice is quite classical his version of the song “Simon Zelotes” is excellent….he makes a far better Simon than when he played Jesus. (I can never quite forgive him for DESTROYING one of my favourite songs Gethsemane if I’m quite honest his interpretation of the song was an “Airy fairy pansy-ish JOKE!!” )

Ciaphas (Peter Gallagher) and Annas (Martin Callaghan) are brilliant. Another legend includes David Burt as Pontius Pilate. He played Enjolras in the Original London Cast of Les Miserables way back in 1985. He’s great- far better than Barry Dennman from the 1973 film who I felt was really weak, but not as good as  Fred Johanson from the 2000 film. He was AWESOME with a really deep and rich voice….his crazy facial expressions did make me chuckle slightly though!

I like Herod even though he has only a small part in the musical. Alice Cooper’s character portrayal seems to be somewhere in between the comical King Herod from the 1973 film and the creepy Herod from the 2000 film version. He’s appropriately mocking and portrayed as an idiot. Cooper was not originally part of that cast, therefore making the recording a “Studio cast recording.”

The trial before Pilate is the best I have ever heard although I LOVED Fred Johannson’s version. You can really hear the pain in Steve Balsamo’s voice! From then on the cast recording brought tears to my eyes. John 19:41 always makes me really emotional it was AMAZING !!

Ahhh I only wish that I could have been born at least 10 years earlier so that I could have seen this wonderful cast.


17 thoughts on “The 1996 London Cast recording is Probably the best version of Jesus Christ Superstar ever !!

  1. You produced some decent points there. I looked on the web for that issue and discovered many people is going together with with the internet website. 469595

  2. Was lucky enough to see Steve Balsamo in this… Incredible… And that is coming from a fan since the 70s. If you haven’t yet heard the original pre-stage recording with Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), I recommend it. Different, but equally good. With Yvonne Elliman and Barry Dennen (best Pilate) who were in the first film. Gillan is stronger than Balsamo, but on the other hand, he never sets the hairs on the back of my neck going the way Steve Balsamo does.

    Also saw Glenn Carter as Jesus – good, but not in the same league!

    For me, the production hinges around Judas, though, and no-one has ever come close to Murray Head, on that original recording. Put him and Balsamo together,with Dennen and the wonderful Alice Cooper, and that would be the perfect cast.

    Also saw JCSS just before the original West End production closed (early 80s?). How lucky am I?!

    Thanks for this, have to listen to it again now. Do try the original if you can… Some other interesting older names there, too…

    1. Thanks!!
      LOVE Steve Balsamo….. sadly I was too young when he was in JCSS !! 😦
      I’ve never heard the pre-stage recording…I’ll try to track it down! Glenn Carter was good, he has a lovely voice but his version on Gethsemane was AWFUL !!!!!

      Agreed those 3 were amazing = dream cast !
      SO jealous that you saw the original production. Thank you for your feedback !

  3. PS. Yes, Carl Anderson was great, and I think owed a lot of his performance to following Head’s lead. Barry Dennen was much better on the recording than in the film, promise!

  4. Facebook linked me to this, and I have to say I agree wholeheartedly (except that I don’t prefer the 2000 Pilate). But I find both The Last Supper and The Trial Before Pilate highly underrated, and this performance does both of them perfectly, and I’m glad that you’ve taken the time to review those two in particular ^.^

  5. I was lucky enough to see this West End production 7 times in 1996 and the reason for returning was because of Steve Balsamo who has the most incredible voice. I spoke to him at the stage door a few times and he was a gentle, lovely young man at that time (and I’m sure hasn’t changed apart from getting older !). I’ve played the CD on and off since then but my interest in the show has been revived because of the current TV programme to find a Jesus for the arena production. My favourite by the way is Rory Taylor who also has an outstanding voice and happens to look a little like Steve. It would be fantastic if Steve were cast for the film but in the meantime I try to follow his progress on Youtube. I recommend Eric Woolfson’s “POE” DVD recorded in 2003 for anyone who wants to see Steve perform.

    1. Ahhh I’d love to meet Steve Balsamo one day ! He’s SO SO talented.
      I’ve seen clips of the “Poe” DVD …… how stunning is his version of “Immortal” ?I was BLOWN AWAY !

  6. Sadly, I’ve never seen the 1996 version of JCS but have it on CD and it’s fabulous. I only discovered Steve Balsamo about 18 months ago and I’m so glad I did. What a voice! I now have all his CDs and I also have the DVD of Eric Woolfson’s ‘Poe’, which is superb.

    Does anybody know if the 1996 version of JCS was ever recorded to DVD? It seems that most airings of this musical are not only recorded to audio CD but also filmed for DVD and I really would love a copy of it. I’d even contemplate a second-hand copy, so long as it’s in excellent condition. Can anyone help me please? Cheers. x

    1. Neither have I. I was only 3-4 years old when it came out. I discovered Steve Balsamo about 5 years ago and have longed to see him perform live ever since! He did a gig about an hour away from me, but I completely missed it! 😦
      As far as I am aware, there are no video recordings of JCS 1996. I have searched the internet many a time. It’s such a shame that the poor, 2000 Glenn Carter version was filmed instead. I have scoured youtube too; I just can’t find anything, not even live snippets. 😦

      1. I thought about writing a letter to ‘The Really Useful Group’ to see if there is a DVD and if not, why not? I figure that if anyone will know, they will. It seems odd to me if there isn’t one because most productions before and after 1996 have been released on DVD and CD and considering Steve Balsamo’s Jesus has been rated so highly, it’s sinful that it might have been overlooked. I have the Glenn Carter version and enjoyed it…until I saw Steve singing Gethsemane on YouTube and then realised how poor Glenn’s version is. He has a superb voice, nice and powerful etc but the top notes are strained, the facial expressions are bizarre and I don’t get a feeling of belief behind it. As for the Ben Forster version…shameful comes to mind! Mel C and Tim Minchin have dreadful voices for something as powerful as JCS and Ben Forster is the most unbelievable Jesus I’ve seen. It’s a version I shall not buying into.
        In an interview, Steve said that he always tries to sing with an honesty to it and I think that comes through in both JCS and Poe. Have you seen Poe? It’s brilliant.
        Like you, I’ve wanted to see him live but although he’s been about an hour away from me, I can’t get there because I don’t drive and due to pain, I can’t walk too far, so public transport isn’t always possible either.

      2. I honestly don’t think there is a DVD. I’m not keen on the Glenn Carter version, he has a pleasant voice, but his portrayal as Jesus is annoying.
        I have seen Ben Forster live, his voice on the whole was good actually, his acting was a bit camp and over the top. I actually liked Mel C as Mary, she is a brilliant actress. Tim Minchin on the other hand was pretty awful. His voice was pitchy and screechy and I felt that he let the cast down.
        Steve sings from the heart and you really can tell. His 2004 performance of ‘Gethsemane’ in ‘Ahoy’ is the best I have ever seen. I was blown away! I have only seen clips from Poe.

      3. Oh yes, the Ahoy clip of Steve is brilliant….those tears! I find I hold my breath while he’s singing, so I don’t miss anything! Lol.
        With regards to Poe, you can watch the whole show on YouTube. Here’s the link:

        It’s about 1hr 45m long. David Burt is brilliant too…makes a superb baddy.
        I’d love to know what you think.
        Jacqui x

  7. If you want any more links to thinks like:
    The Storys
    Chimpan A
    Jon Lord’s tour
    Balsamo Deighton
    Kasia Laska
    Eric Woolfson

    All of which are connected to and include Steve Balsamo, let me know. I’m on Facebook, so you can always PM me. I’m a tad hooked on Steve’s music at present and listen to it everyday. Lol

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