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Actor who played Judas in ‘Superstar’ dies

Carl Anderson was 58 and suffered from leukemia
/ Source: Reuters

Carl Anderson, the actor and singer best known for his stage and film portrayal of Judas in the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” has died of leukemia at age 58, his manager said on Wednesday.

Anderson, who reported to have been diagnosed with leukemia last summer during a national revival tour of the first musical by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, died on Monday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Anderson had been planning to appear in a worldwide tour that was to open at the Vatican in the fall.

The part of Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar” was originated on Broadway in 1971 by Ben Vereen, but Anderson stepped into the role when Vereen fell ill, and the two performers later took turns playing the role.

Anderson caught the attention of a talent agent and landed an audition for the part after his rock band was seen at a Palm Sunday church service performing songs from “Superstar,” which then had been a hit in England but not yet had a U.S. debut.

The show, a rock opera about the last week in the life of Christ, depicting Jesus as a fallible human and Judas as more a victim than a villain, was protested by some religious groups but went on to become a box office hit.

Anderson subsequently was cast as Judas in the 1973 movie adaptation directed by Norman Jewison and starring Ted Neeley as Jesus. The film garnered Anderson Golden Globe nominations for most promising newcomer and best musical actor.

The Virginia-born actor returned as Judas for a 1992 North American touring revival of “Superstar” and again 10 years later in a production co-starring rocker Sebastian Bach in the title role.

Anderson also appeared in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 drama ”The Color Purple and in the short-lived 1997 Broadway musical ”Play On!”, a jazzy update of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” set in 1940s Harlem.

Anderson recorded several albums in the 1980s and 1990s that included such hits as “How Deep Does It Go,” “Pieces of a Heart,” and the duet with soap opera star Gloria Loring, ”Friends and Lovers.” He also sang on recordings by Stevie Wonder and jazz star Nancy Wilson.