Who Sang It Better – Gethsemane


Who Sang It Better – Gethsemane

As some of you may know I perform in amateur dramatics shows….. the song choice is therefore fitting as I am performing in Jesus Christ Superstar this week. The song from Jesus Christ Superstar I’ve chosen is Gethsemane. This comes at the point in the show where Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and his disciples have fallen asleep. It is the most emotionally charged number in the show so on that front it’s a big ask but on top of that it is a HUGE sing with these tenors upper notes being put to the test. Andrew Lloyd Webber himself has called this the most difficult song to sing he has ever written.

Up first is Ted Neeley who performed the role of Jesus and sang Gethsemane in the 1973 film, on Broadway, an American tour in the 1990’s and another tour as recently as 2010!! He is possibly the most famous Jesus….

This version is certainly raw but I think it lacks the depth and tone of some of the other singers below.

Whilst looking at the original version the next place to turn is the Millennium film which has Glenn Carter as Jesus.  He also replaced Steve Balsamo (see below) as Jesus in the West End.

Glenn in my opinion acts parts of it too wide eyed and at times even over acted. There is no denying he has a huge and powerful voice but when he hits those huge high notes this power drops off as he goes into his falsetto.

Next up is Steve Balsamo who played the role in the London revival from November 1996 – September 1997.

I was lucky enough to see him perform this in the show. This video is taken a few years later in concert but it does his voice justice. Of course one if the things you talk about first in this number is those huge screaming high notes, the first of which is at 2:55 and again at 3:57 fro when he just continues with these insane notes! Not only that but he makes it sound effortless and his transition from his chest voice into his head voice is seamless. I also love the conviction he delivers the number with. Can you tell I am a fan??

Finally is the UK’s most recent big name Jesus – Ben Forster who won the role on TV show Superstar. Check out his performance below – I apologise for the cringe introduction.

I do actually quite like Ben, although he comes nowhere near to Steve. He is slightly cheesy for my taste.

There are many many other singers out there who have performed this number, including quite a few big names who don’t even attempt those mega notes and drop it down the octave. In my opinion Steve Balsamo is my favorite but of course that is just my opinion. I’d love to hear your opinion on it……


If you liked this you may also like my other – Who Sang it Better Posts on Bring Him Home and Defying Gravity.


  • You missed Michael Crawford at a royal variety performance quite a few years ago 😉

    • I knew I’d seen Michael Crawford do this piece but couldn’t remember the context. Thanks for the reminder. He was indeed amazing.

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  • What about Ian Gillan, the original on the first published album?? He was amazing……The Michaels (Crawford & Ball) did amazing versions also!!

    • In my opinion, no one performs Gethsemane like the fantastic Mr Michael Ball, who imbues the song with just a perfect emotional delivery, conveying first of all the defiance of Jesus who wanted desperately to live, then as he comes to the realisation that God himself has the ultimate control and Jesus is just an instrument of fate, his attitude changes to a dignified and courageous resignation to his death. Michael Ball’s voice does not have the extremely high register of other singers of this song, but the greater depth and soaring vocals combined with the emotion, make Ball the ultimate performer of this song, and I have yet to hear a version where he is surpassed in brilliance, particularly captured in the dvd Live at the Royal Albert Hall. Watch it and you will see what I mean.

      • I like Michael Ball but I wasn’t that impressed with his version. I’ve seen Michael Crawford perform it live when he was touring in The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber in San Francisco in the 90’s and WOW! He just blew me away.

    • I agree! Ian was amazing.

    • Gillian on the original double vinyl has that deprh and a 360° presentation that defies film.

  • In my opinion it has to be Michael Crawford at the Royal Variety Performance in 1992, I remember watching it and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as this is one emotionally charged rendition. For me everything is there, the passion, the pain, and the voice is staggering, it still remains one of those defining moments for me, it blew my socks off. I believe this is still on Youtube, just search Micheal and Gethsemane and Royal Variety and its there, check it out, its awesome. Actually I will paste the URL here, go look


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  • Carlos A Elenes

    I like both Michael Crawford and Michael Ball. I like these no falsete versions… pure power. I really like the power in the performance from Crawford, but prefer the sound and timbre of Ball, although his acting is weaker in my opinion.

  • Did Alfie Boe ever sing it?

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  • No one can do it better than Ted Neeley, he was and still is utterly awesome. The next best imo, is Nathan James who should have won Superstar, his power, range and emotion are simply outstanding and is, as far as I’m concerned, the closest second to Ted Neeley. I have watched countless versions of this song and none touch Ted and Nathan.


    • Ted makes me feel to my soul that situation every time I watch, I cry. He embodies the doubting man that is part of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In my opinion nobody comes close to his performance of Gethsemane.

      • Agree with you 100%!

      • Thank you for this highly informative article, sincerely appreciated!

        I’m absolutely intrigued by the piece, after a friend of mine sung it in the Musical Society rendition of it 2 weeks ago (we had 6 weeks to pull it off from start to showtime!!)
        So much so that my Vocal Teacher is working with it and myself now! ..

        But what brought me here was a search online for a musical breakdown / analysis / dissection of the song. Any idea where I can find such a one?

        A huge composition. Deeply stirring of the human condition in a very soulful way.

        Yours, Peneleapaí

    • Timothy Taylorson

      Ted Neely peerless

  • Steve Balsamo easily.

  • I have to agree with Kathy on Ian Gillian but you have to just listen to appreciate the beauty of his tone and range of his voice. This is because he never actually acted the role, only sang it for the first demo recording… the “video” of him singing on line is his voice but I understand that the person lip-syncing is not him.

  • Without a doubt,Steve Balsamo, he takes your breath away! His voice is Amazing!!!

  • Steve Balsamo is perfection — singing, acting, showing us Jesus’s the pain and doubt speaking to his Father. He goes to amazing rock notes without any effort and does not overdo the rock register, so we hear each word, feel each word with his voice, his tears.

    • Absolutely! Balsemo’s range is beyond belief. He hits those high notes with a clarity none of the rest can reach. Pure magic. BUT—and a big but—Michael Crawford can sing this song, never even trying to reach those high notes, and his ability to hold a note is only matched by Balsemo, therefore, for me, he is a close number two and shouldn’t be ignored.

  • MichaelCrawford and Dennis DeYoung (DDY also does the best “Bring Him Home” EVER on his Broadway album!

  • I have seen/heard a lot of singers, but Ted is above them, not just his signing but acting too. Ted 100% you can feel the emotion he puts on it.

  • I agree with you Steve Balsamo by far is the best. He doesn’t over or under play it and it just feels authentic. Absolutely captivating performance which captures the fear of a man who accepts what he has to do. Just amazing. I could listen to it over and over again.

  • Sorry, no- one even gets close to Ted Neeley. The emotion, the voice, the despair, the rage, anger acceptance – no-one one comes close. I weep when he sings. I weep.

  • I realise this is an old article but, there is simply no better version than Steve Balsamo’s studio recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPdxxXoekmk&gl=BE That “see how I die….” is like half a minute long with a seamless transition, no pause before it…. It’s absolutely incredible

  • Easily Steve Balsamo.

    The others cannot touch him in every area. His voice , acting and presence and innocence are breathtaking.

    This man should be known to everyone. Pure talent and no ego!

    I’m not religious but he nearly brought me to tears.

    Wish he did more in the theatre.

    Steve is a magical performer who makes me tingle every time I here this song. Dare I say he’s ‘ a gift from the gods,!


  • I’m going to have to go with the original Ted Neely.I got to see him with all his passion in Atlanta a few years back.He still hit the high notes.The song leaves me worn out.

  • Ian Gillan, recorded it for the initial album in 4 hours, and then went back to Deep Purple. Without his amazing interpretation none of the following would have happened. His voice at the end, the emotion is untouchable. I kn,w it’s subjective, but I believe that his is best.

  • Totally agree Drew R . I’ve just listened to all the others and albeit they all do it justice none come close to Ian Gillan. His tone is more suited which is an advantage his expression is spot on throughout and his high notes are meaningful.

  • Ian Gillian. There are others?

  • Fully agree on Ian Gillian. He is the best performer of Gethsemane hands down. None comes even close.

  • Steve Balsamo. I remember crying the first time I heard him sing Gethsemane and being totally perplexed at my own reaction

  • Check out Freek Bartels (Dutch) — he has a version of Gethsemane out too (don’t remember if he ever actually “played” the role, or only used it for auditions), but it’s quite powerful

  • Heard Ian Gillan on the original recording of JC Superstar. Was so impressed. His version is still one of my favourites. Delivered with such feeling in his rock star voice. Perfect for the time. Michael Crawford – amazing!. But Steve Balsamo’s rendition is perfection. Will listen to Ted Neeley due to the very high praise heaped on him here. Can’t fail to pay tribute to ALW and Tim Rice for this outstanding piece of music and theatre. Thanks for this article.

  • Camilo Sexto. Andrew lloyd webber said that was the only one with the quality of the original.

  • Ted Neeley. The emotion in his performance is on another level to all others who have tried. Neeley sounds like he is going toe to toe with god, the others are great singers simply trying to go toe toe to toe with Neeley . . .they failed!

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