Broadway musical director and composer Louis St. Louis (Smokey Joe's Café, "Grease," "Mahogany") conceived the gospel take on Jesus Christ Superstar, which began performances Jan. 14 and opened to rave reviews Jan. 21.
The massive Atlanta production, staged by Alliance artistic director Susan V. Booth, stars Broadway's Darius De Haas (Children of Eden, Rent, Marie Christine) in the title role and incorporates a choir to function as a Greek chorus.
Sanctioned by composer Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, St. Louis told Playbill.com that Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL could be resurrected in the future. Word of mouth and packed houses have prompted New York producers and Lloyd Webber to attend the Atlanta production; however, no future plans have been announced.
St. Louis approached Lloyd Webber over six years ago with the idea of bringing the 1970's rock opera into the world of contemporary gospel. Shortly after contacting Lloyd Webber, the Really Useful Group sent a representative to meet with St. Louis, and the project was greenlighted.
Created to utilize a large gospel choir (the Atlanta production boasts a choir of 27), St. Louis said that several regional theatre companies were interested in the work, although "nobody wanted to quite get it up at the size that the Alliance was willing to do," he explained. "Here's the chance for us to break the cliché of what people think a black gospel choir does," St. Louis said of the musical reinterpretation. Collaborating with vocal arranger Darryl Jovan Williams, who also plays Judas, St. Louis notes that while roughly half of the score has been rearranged as gospel, Lloyd Webber's melodies remain intact. "Gospel reaches you in a different way, so given the combination of Andrew's extraordinary score and, I think, some of the best writing Tim Rice ever gave us, combined with the contemporary gospel injections, [the production] is a pretty volatile package," he stated.
The cast of Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL also features Nicole Long as Mary Magdalene, Eric Jordan Young (Dessa Rose, Little Fish) as Herod, Destan Owens (Rent, Smokey Joe's Café) as Pilate, Keith Adams as Simon and Philip Dorian McAdoo (The Lion King) as Peter.
The Atlanta company also includes Stephanie Battle, Rodney Boyden, Phillip Boykin, Jaime Cepero, Chandra Currelley, Jesse Jones, Arian Keddell, Bernardine Mitchell, CJay Hardy Philip, Glenn Rainey, Eugene H. Russell IV, Brett Sturgis, Charles E. Wallace, J.D. Webster, Darryl Jovan Williams and Hollie E. Wright.
Atlanta gospel singers who lend their voices include Adam McKnight, Charlene Anderson, Christy Clark, Jae Franklin, Latarsha Horne, Cynthia Jackson, Jennifer Jordan, Jamie Katz, Naomi Lavette, Paul Vincent, DeMond Mason, Cassandra McCullough, Arle Michel, Eric Moore, Jennifer Myles, Latrice Pace, Valerie Payton, Steven Roberts, Jeremy Sage, Tameka Scotton, Jonathan Smith, Tim Stylez, Alecia Terry, Cory Washington, Raena White, Burgandy Williams and Yolanda Williams.
The production team comprises Tony-winning set designer Michael Yeargan, Tony-nominated costume designer Paul Tazewell, lighting designer Robert Wierzel, sound designer Jon Weston and gospel vocal arranger Darryl Jovan Williams with new orchestrations by Dave Pierce.
For more information phone (404) 733-5000 or visit www.alliancetheatre.org.