The first time I saw "Jesus Christ Superstar" on Broadway in 1972, my friend and I were so blown away we walked all the way back from the theater district to our Columbia University dormitory just raving about it. Since, I've seen several great productions of the musical, which is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's best.

So I definitely had mixed feelings about TV's new take on the still-controversial rock opera, told from the point of view of Judas about the last days of Jesus Christ. It was sort of, "How dare they?"

But the new adaptation, just in time for the "Superstar" 30th anniversary, is amazing.

It has neither the look nor the feel of the desert-bound first version, but it works. This new version, which airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday on PBS' "Great Performances" (seen locally on KRMA-Channel 6), is very dark and urban, with trashed-out streets and graffitied walls. At times it's almost post-apocalyptic in feel. A cool from-the-back shot of the priests walking down a very dark and ominous-looking street, their long black duster-like coats swinging in unison, is just one of the great visuals.

In the role of Jesus, Britain's blond-ringleted Glenn Carter, who first appears in tank top and cargo pants, is a fabulous singer; the Gethsemane number brings chills. Glowering beneath his dark brows, France's Jerome Pradon is riveting as treacherous, tormented Judas, and big, shaven-headed, deep-voiced Frederick Owens (so terrific on Broadway in "Smokey Joe's Cafe") makes a strong impact as Caiaphas, the head priest.

Directed by Australia's Gale Edwards, this truly international television adaptation of "Jesus Christ Superstar" is based on the recent London revival that also played Broadway last year.

  -Sandra C. Dillard
The Denver Post