The pop-rock musical of the last days of Jesus got enthusiastic reviews in Ontario, and earned the approval of lyricist Tim Rice and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. The full Stratford cast is expected to make the move to California, a La Jolla spokesperson confirmed.
"While our partner for Finding Neverland, Weinstein Live Entertainment, elected not to go forward with the planned production at the Playhouse, it has given us the opportunity to share Des McAnuff's stunning revival of Jesus Christ Superstar with our audiences," La Jolla artistic director Christopher Ashley said in a statement.
There has been some buzz in the community that, given McAnuff's connection to Broadway hits (The Who's Tommy, Jersey Boys), the show may move East, to Broadway. For now, Jesus Christ Superstar will play at La Jolla Playhouse's Mandell Weiss Theatre in La Jolla, CA, from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31. It's currently playing in rep at Stratford's proscenium Avon Theatre in Stratford, Ontario, to Oct. 29.
"Given my long, happy and fruitful history with La Jolla Playhouse, I am naturally thrilled by the prospect of this collaboration between our two great theatres," Stratford artistic director McAnuff said in a statement. "The pride I take in the magnificent work being done by our Festival artists in Jesus Christ Superstar is matched by my deep appreciation to La Jolla for giving us this wonderful opportunity to showcase that work to an audience of which I am very fond…"
Stratford general director Antoni Cimolino added, "Jesus Christ Superstar has created a huge buzz in the media and the show has become one of our hottest tickets. It's a pleasure to work with our colleagues in La Jolla to take this Superstar on the road." This new staging features Paul Nolan as Jesus, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Josh Young as Judas Iscariot, Tony Award winner Brent Carver (Kiss of the Spider Woman) as Pontius Pilate, Bruce Dow as King Herod and Mike Nadajewski as Peter.
The creative team includes choreographer Lisa Shriver, musical director Rick Fox, set designer Robert Brill, costume designer Paul Tazewell, lighting designer Howell Binkley, sound designer Jim Neil, video designer Sean Nieuwenhuis, dramaturg Chad Sylvain, fight director Daniel Levinson, aerial stunt coordinator Simon Fon.
Before joining the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as artistic director, McAnuff was artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse 1983-1994 and 2001-2007, and is now director emeritus. A two-time Tony Award-winning director, McAnuff received an honorary doctorate in June from his alma mater, Ryerson University in Toronto.
The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer. Numerous Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, including Jersey Boys, Big River, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, and The Farnsworth Invention, all of which were directed by McAnuff.
The 2011 season of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, runs until Oct. 30, featuring The Merry Wives of Windsor, Camelot, Twelfth Night, The Misanthrope, The Grapes of Wrath, The Homecoming, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare's Will, The Little Years and Hosanna.