Ben Hur Live: Rock ‘n Roll Chariot Racers Party Like It’s 10 AD

by Fran Jurga | 19 September 2009 | The Jurga Report at

If you ask me, gladiators are the new pirates. And arena chariot races with native British pony breeds look like great fun, although I might reserve judgment on that one until World Horse Welfare checks in and gives their blessing. Throw in some great classic rock and a concert stage set and I’m there.

If only “there” didn’t mean flying to Europe.

Chariot “race” in London’s O2 Arena as the grand finale of Ben Hur Live.

A German production company is working with Stewart Copeland of rock band Police fame and the producers of Pink Floyd’s The Wall theatrical stage set to bring a crowd-pleasing theater-rock ensemble salute to BEN HUR back to life. Apparently the crowd is part of the show, just like in Roman days and it is pretty clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

They might even learn some history.

What I learned from the press kit is that before Charlton Heston was even born, Ben Hur was a stage play in London. And an extravaganza, since it is, of course, a Christian redemption story at its heart. They built a special treadmill on the stage and the horses ran on it for the chariot race. That sounds a little dangerous.

The 2009 production from Germany has galley ships, fog, slaves, falcons flying over head, circus animals, acrobats and the penultimate chariot races with teams of perfectly matched ponies. (I’ll take the Fells–or are those Dales? Although surely Ben Hur drives the luminescent Welsh ponies.)

It looks like great fun, since they are all actors, after all, and the blood is surely catsup. Do you think this will ever come to America?

What would Charlton Heston think, if he was still alive? Go to the show’s web site and look around–this is an original idea, to be sure.

How do you say “Arrrggghhh!” in Latin?




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