Then, in 1969, Neeley played the lead role of Claude in both the New York and Los Angeles productions of Hair. His work with that show's director, Tom O'Horgan, led to him being called when O'Horgan was hired to stage Jesus Christ Superstar for Broadway. Ironically, Neeley originally auditioned for the role of Judas, seeing it as a great opportunity to create a character few understand. However, when Ben Vereen was chosen for the role, Neeley signed on as chorus and also became the Christ understudy.
This particular opportunity led to him taking on the title role in the Los Angeles stage version (which played at the Universal Amphitheatre) after receiving a standing ovation during a performance earlier in the tour. Castmate and close friend Carl Anderson was touring also as a Judas understudy. He also created the title role in Tommy in Los Angeles, and that in turn led him to reprise the title role in the film version of Superstar, directed by Norman Jewison, alongside Anderson as Judas. For his performance in the film, he was nominated for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical or Comedy at the 1974 Golden Globe Awards. Post-JCS Fresh from the success of Superstar, Neeley released a solo album, 1974 A.D., in 1974, and created the title role in Sgt.
Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road in New York. From then on, he was a frequent musical guest star on network variety programs and as a guest actor in network dramas during the 1970s and 1980s (including the NBC movies Of Mice and Men and McLaren's Riders). Amongst other functions he performed, Neeley composed music for and appeared in Robert Altman's film A Perfect Couple, and performed the music for the TriStar feature film Blame it on the Night, NBC-TV's Highway to Heaven, and The Big Blue Marble for the Children's Television Network. He also wrote music for and starred in Cowboy Jack Street at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and the screenplay for a film aimed at the kiddie market entitled Captain Rainbow which has yet to see the big screen. At the same time, Neeley also provided his abilities as singer, songwriter, vocal arranger, and producer to albums and appearances by such artists as Nigel Olsson, Tina Turner, Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Keith Carradine, and Meat Loaf. In the realm of concept albums, he worked with songwriter Michael Rapp, who wrote such hit concept albums as Ulysses: The Greek Suite, The Ring and The Enchanter exclusively for showcasing Neeley's amazing vocal talents.
In the late Seventies, Ted expanded his talents once more to live performance with his band Pacific Coast Highway. However, while he moved on in his career, the specter of Superstar still loomed large. In the late 1970s, he reprised his performance in the title role for two regional productions in California, both under the auspices of the California Youth Theatre organization. The first reunited him with his Broadway and film co-stars Carl Anderson and Yvonne Elliman (as Judas and Mary Magdalene, respectively), and the second reunited him again with his close friend Carl. Return Twenty years after first playing the role, Neeley gained renewed success in the lead role of Jesus in the 1990s touring company of Jesus Christ Superstar (which once again co-starred Carl Anderson as Judas, and also at various points co-starred Irene Cara of Fame as Mary, and Dennis DeYoung of Styx as Pilate). This modernized version of the original production included a day-glo temple scene, and a glass crucifixion cross that elevated above the stage and was lit from within.
Originally planned as a three month tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the motion picture, the "A.D. Tour" went on to become the longest running revival in North American theater history. From 1992 to 1997, the hugely successful tour criss-crossed the nation multiple times, allowing Neeley the opportunity to reprise his role over 1,700 times. In 1999, Neeley reunited with Michael Rapp for a new project, a rock musical entitled Rasputin, a story about the fall of the Romanov dynasty as seen through the eyes of Alexei, heir to the throne and friend to the "mad monk" (a role created by Neeley).
In addition to playing the title role, he recently produced a workshop production and concept album of the show. He followed this up in 2000 by creating the role of Willie Moore in the world premiere of Murder in the First, presented by the Rubicon Theatre Company of California, with whom Neeley maintains a close association. A year later, he served as the sound consultant for their production of the Harry Chapin revue Lies and Legends. In 2004, Neeley worked with them once again, as Lucky in the Rubicon Theatre Company's production of Waiting for Godot, which was the centerpiece of their BeckettFest. Projects In August 2006, once again under the auspices of the California Youth Theatre group (now YouTHeatre - America or YTA), Neeley took on the familiar title role in Jesus Christ Superstar live in concert for a one night only benefit at The Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, reuniting him with several of his former co-stars from the original Broadway cast (Ben Vereen, Yvonne Elliman, Barry Dennen) and also pairing him with current celebrities (Clint Holmes, Jack Black).
In 2006, Neeley began headlining another production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Originally billed by some as his national "farewell" tour, he disavowed the claim and the show was known as the new "A.D. Tour". The new production was a stripped-down version with staging and set limited to a few risers.
The tour was supposed to last through 2007, but audience and critical reception for the show was so great that it continues to be extended and is currently booked through 2010. Carl Anderson, who was originally slated to reprise his role, died in 2004 of leukemia. Corey Glover, lead singer of the rock band Living Colour, co-starred as Judas early in the tour. Glover left the show to rejoin Living Colour in June 2008, and actor James Delisco was cast as the new Judas, along with several new cast members. Other With the tour finished, Neeley plans to focus on other projects that have been in the offing for some time.
Further runs of Rasputin and Murder in the First are on the priority list, as is development of his newly written musical work Pandemonium (intended for the Broadway stage) and a new country music album (featuring songs written and recorded in collaboration with his friend and long-time music partner Pepper Martin). Through his company, Blue Bonnet Surprise, Neeley is developing several new works in collaboration with the Rubicon Theatre Company and Gary Goddard Entertainment. Personal life Neeley and his wife Leeyan currently reside in Texas with their children Tessa and Zack. They met during the making of the film, Jesus Christ Superstar. Read more on Last.fm.
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