An upcoming arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring an eclectic quartet of stars hailing from the world of pop and rock music, has been cancelled just ahead of its premiere.
Producers, including Toronto concert promoter Michael Cohl's company S2BN Entertainment, quietly axed the high-profile touring show on Friday, with little explanation.
"All purchased tickets will be refunded. Tickets purchased online and via telephone will be automatically refunded. Tickets purchased from outlets/venue box office must be returned to that location for refund," read a message on the show's official website.
Originally slated to begin in New Orleans on June 9, the popular rock musical's arena tour was announced with fanfare in April.
The run was to include stops in more than 50 cities, including Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver, as well as U.S. cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Led by rising star Ben Forster, who won the British reality TV competition Superstar to play the lead role in the U.K., the tour attracted a number of famous faces from the music world.
John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, Destiny's Child member Michelle Williams, 'N Sync's JC Chasez and Brandon Boyd of Incubus had all signed (to play King Herod, Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate and Judas Iscariot, respectively).
Cast told at last minute
The British and American cast and crew (numbering about 300) reportedly learned of the show's abrupt cancellation on Friday after having completed a run-through. Final rehearsals for the primary cast had been slated to begin today.
On the weekend, the teams posted a group photo of a defiant "one-fingered salute" to social media as their reaction to the cancellation.
"What's that Miley Cyrus song, Wrecking Ball? I feel like someone just came in and took a big wrecking ball to the Jesus Christ Superstar tour," Forster, who starred in the musical's British production after his TV win, told the New York Times.
Former Live Nation executive and rock promoter Cohl was previously a lead producer on Broadway's chaotic, problem-laden Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and A Night with Janis Joplin, which saw its off-Broadway run this spring cancelled just 48 hours before it was to start.
When the Jesus Christ Superstar tour was first announced earlier this spring, he declined to discuss the show's finances in too much detail, saying only that the total costs were in the "eight figures" and he needed to pull in "several hundred thousand dollars" each night to keep it on the road.
According to reports, poor ticket sales were ultimately to blame for the tour's cancellation.
"In the end, it just did not make business sense to continue, and we didn’t want the cast to endure playing to disappointing audiences," Cohl wrote in an email to the Times.
An early collaboration between theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that debuted on Broadway in 1971, Jesus Christ Superstar was popular for its rock-infused take on the final days of Jesus. The show's memorable songs include Superstar, What's the Buzz and I Don't Know How to Love Him.