When you think of Broadway, the Bible is most likely not the first thing that comes to your mind. Still, over the years there have been several Broadway musicals with Biblical themes, telling the life of Christ or others throughout the epic story.
Believers have to understand that with these musicals a lot of artistic license was used and while the themes of the Bible may resonate, they’re for the most part, not scriptural. Some have even been controversial.
This list contains some of the most popular Broadway musicals with Biblical themes.
With book and lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Alan Menken, King David is based on stories from the books of Samuel and 1 Chronicles along with text from the Psalms. The show is mostly sung with little dialogue and is sometimes referred to as a modern oratorio. Originally conceived as an outdoor piece to commemorate the 3,000th anniversary of the City of Jerusalem, the show proved to be logistically and financially impossible. Disney later took an interest in the project and the show ran for nine performances in the New Amsterdam Theatre in 1997. There are no current plans to stage a full Broadway production.
Children of Eden
With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by John Caird, Children of Eden is based on the Book of Genesis. It tells the story of Adam, Eve, Cain and Able in Act I and the Story of Noah and the Flood in Act II. The original production was developed as a Royal Shakespeare Company workshop. The show opened in London’s West End in 1991, but due to poor reviews and the Persian Gulf War, the show closed and the plans for a worldwide tour were cancelled. The show has never made it to Broadway.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Based on the story of Joseph’s “coat of many colors,” Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. This was their first musical to be performed publicly. It was first presented as a 15-minute pop cantata and later recorded as a concept album in 1969. Following the success of Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph was produced in London’s West End in 1973 and opened on Broadway in 1982. Donny Osmond starred in a straight-to-video production in 1999.
Your Arms Too Short to Box with God: A Soaring Celebration in Song and Dance
This show is based on the Book of Matthew with music and lyrics by Alex Bradford and a book by Vinnette Carroll. The show opened on Broadway in 1976 and ran for 429 performances. The title phrase was taken from a sermon by James Weldon Johnson, published in a 1927 book God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse.
Jesus Christ Superstar
The rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice was first a concert recording before it was staged on Broadway in 1971 and later in London’s West End. Jesus Christ Superstar is loosely based on the last week of the life of Jesus. But the show was considered controversial because it highlighted the struggles beween Christ and Judas Iscariot. Christians criticized the work both for the rock music and for the fact that the story of the Resurrection was not included.
Written by Stephen Schwartz (music) and John-Michael Tebelak (book), Godspell opened on Broadway in 1971. The musical is based on several parables contained in The Gospel of Matthew, and three contained in the Gospel of Luke. The show actually began as a master’s thesis project for Telebek at Carnegie Mellon University. It was then taken to the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York where producers wanted to open it Off-Broadway. Schwartz was hired to write a new song score. The musical has been criticized by some for the hippie garb worn by the cast and the clown makeup and Superman shirt worn by the character of Jesus.