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Jeff Fenholt (1950–2019), original star of “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway

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He went on to become an evangelist, frequently seen on Christian TV network TBN

Jeff Fenholt starred in the original Broadway production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” playing the title role. Though the show originated as a concept album with Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan singing the part of Jesus, Fenholt took over the role for the show’s 1971 live debut and continued for its two-year Broadway run. Fenholt’s career stalled after the Broadway role came to an end, as he struggled with substance abuse. He would later convert to Christianity to help overcome his addictions, and he became an evangelist, frequently appearing on Christian network TBN. Fenholt also had a recording career, releasing several albums and singles.

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Died: September 10, 2019 (Who else died on September 10?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 68.


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Black Sabbath: Fenholt said that he was once the lead singer for Black Sabbath, though the extent of his involvement with the legendary rock band is disputed. According to Fenholt, the band’s manager contacted him to tell Fenholt he’d be singing with the band — and he went on to record several tracks with them in 1985 that were used but not credited to him. The band members disagree, saying he auditioned but never recorded with the band. Drummer Eric Singer, then a member of Black Sabbath, said, “Jeff had an awesome voice but it just didn’t work out.”

What people said about him: “Farewell to Jeff Fenholt, a huge part of the JCS story in the USA and an unforgettable Jesus in the original New York production.” —Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer of “Jesus Christ Superstar”

“Another sad loss from the ranks of those who helped Andrew and me enormously in our early days in musical theatre. Jeff Fenholt, the first ever JCS on Broadway, has died too early. RIP Jeff and thank you.” —Tim Rice, lyricist of “Jesus Christ Superstar”

“I just learned that my friend Jeff Fenholt has gone on to be with the Lord. I had the pleasure of directing his shows on TBN for several years. He was always so much fun to be with. I spoke with him a few months ago as he shared some of his ideas for a new show.” —Isaac Hernandez of Faith on Film TV

Full obituary: Deadline

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