Barry Dennen, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Actor and Barbra Streisand Ex, Dies at 79

Dennen played Pontius Pilate in the original recording of “Jesus Christ Superstar”

barry dennen
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Barry Dennen, member of the original cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” died Tuesday at age 79, his reps told TheWrap. The actor died in hospice care in Burbank after suffering a brain injury from a fall in June.

Dennen played Pontius Pilate, the man who sentenced Jesus Christ to death, on the original recording and in the 1973 film. Prior to that, Dennen had a brief relationship with Barbra Streisand in the early 1960s, when he helped her develop the nightclub act that kickstarted her career. Dennen wrote about his time with Streisand in a 1997 book called “My Life With Barbra,” discussing how he introduced her to the world of Cabaret and helped designed her outfits while privately coming to terms with his homosexuality.

Born and raised in Chicago, Dennen got his big break as a stage actor in 1968 as the master of ceremonies in the West End version of “Cabaret.” Two years later, he was cast to play Pontius Pilate in “Superstar.” In the role, he performed the song “Pilate’s Dream,” in which the Roman prefect sings of a dream he had about meeting Jesus, and seeing “thousands of millions” crying for him and blaming Pilate for his death.

Dennen also held minor roles in “The Shining” and “Fiddler On The Roof,” and could be seen as one of the passengers in James Cameron’s “Titanic” while the ship was sinking. He has also done voice work on several animated TV shows, including “Batman: The Animated Series,” “DuckTales,” and “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Dennen is survived by his adopted sons Timothy and Barnaby, and his brother, Lyle.