Arena tour combines Jesus, Johnny Rotten

Assorted ramblings from the world of entertainment:

Big arenas always are thirsty for product, new ideas that will appeal to an audience broad enough to fill all those seats.

A fascinatingly bizarre music-theater production is slated for Cleveland and Pittsburgh later this summer that seems designed for the widest possible appeal.

Folks, it doesn’t get more broad than Jesus and Johnny Rotten.

Hitting the road this summer is the “Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Spectacular.” The description, taken from the show’s website, is, “Set in the present day and updated for a 21st-century audience, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is a live two-hour rock concert with over 50 cast and musicians performing a dramatization of the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.”

The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical remains popular more than 40 years after its Broadway debut. And seeing how the movie industry has learned the economic value of tapping into the Christian audience (“Noah,” “Heaven Is for Real,” “God Is Not Dead” and the new Christian comedy “Mom’s Night Out” all have played / are playing local theaters), a large-scale production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” makes sense economically.

But the producers clearly are looking for more than the Christian base, judging by the casting.

Jesus will be played by Ben Forster, who won the role through a 2012 reality show competition on British television. Incubus lead singer Brandon Boyd will play Judas (who, let’s face it, gets the better songs), JC Chasez from *NSYNC will be Pontius Pilate and Michelle Williams from Destiny’s Child will be Mary Magdalene. And, in the oddest casting of all, King Herod will be played by PiL’s John Lydon, who may be better known as Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols.

It will be interesting to see if Incubus fans will come out to see Boyd in a different type of performance or whether the show’s core audience may be turned off by the presence of performers like Lydon.

The tour will play Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena on Aug. 10 and Pittsburgh Consol Energy Center on Aug. 12. Ticket prices and on sale times haven’t been announced yet for those dates, but ticket prices range from $34.50 to $149.50 in Kansas City, Mo., and $39.50-$194.50 in Chicago.

Akron’s Joseph Arthur will release “Lou,” his tribute to Lou Reed, on Tuesday. The Vanguard Records’ release features Arthur covering such Reed songs as “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Satellite of Love,” “Dirty Blvd.,” “Pale Blue Eyes” and “Coney Island Baby.”

I’ve only heard his version of “Wild Side,” but I’m definitely intrigued. Arthur was friends with Reed, and anyone who’s listened to Arthur’s music can tell Reed was a seminal influence on him.

And if you haven’t heard Arthur before, go to his website – – immediately and download the free double album “Redemption City” (it can be found in the discography section). Listen to “Travel as Equals” or “I Miss the Zoo,” and I dare you not to become a fan.

The Kent State University Folk Festival brought top acts to northeast Ohio for more than 45 years. Last year the event changed its name to the Kent State University ‘Round Town Music Festival, which featured a broader range of acts.

The Western Reserve Folk Arts Association wants to fill the void with a new Kent Folk Festival, which will run June 5-14 at the Kent Stage downtown.

Some of the shows already had been announced, but the full lineup was revealed this week with a mix of older performers and new artists carrying on those traditions.

Performers include Della Mae (June 5), The Mavericks (June 6), Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys (June 7), John Sebastian (June 8), Cabinet and Driftwood (June 9), Black Lillies (June 11), David Wilcox and Seth Glier (June 12) and Livingston Taylor and Cheryl Wheeler (June 14).

Ticket details and additional information can be found at