Jesus Christ Superstar dropped in Russia church row

A scene Jesus Christ Superstar at the Palace Theatre, London, 28 July 1972 The musical has been produced worldwide for more than 40 years

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A theatre in the south Russian city of Rostov has dropped a production of Jesus Christ Superstar after protests by Orthodox Christians.

A Russian company was due to stage the Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera at the Rostov Philharmonic next month.

Protesters had complained the opera projected the "wrong" image of Christ.

News of the cancellation baffled members of the cast and caused indignation among commentators wary of Church interference in public life.

Local Russian Orthodox protesters lodged their complaint with prosecutors in Rostov-on-Don, a city of one million, and also wrote a letter to the management of the Philharmonic, according to the Rostov Times newspaper.

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Citing a "new law protecting the rights of believers", they described the musical as a "profanation" and said any such production should be submitted to the Russian Orthodox Church for approval.

It is unclear to which law the protesters were referring. The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, is currently considering a bill which would make it a crime to offend the "religious feelings of citizens".

Religious sensitivities became a real political issue in Russia this year with the prosecution and jailing of three punk musicians, from the band Pussy Riot, for performing a political protest song inside a Moscow cathedral.

Popular Russian blogger Rustem Adagamov said in a tweet that "Orthodox philistines" had cancelled the musical.

The award-winning rock opera made its Broadway debut in 1971 and has since been performed across the world, with several film versions produced.

Russian theatres have been staging it for more than two decades.

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