The long journey from Newcastle, England is over. The updated British revival of Jesus Christ Superstar begins Broadway performances March 23 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera opens April 16, the Christian calendar's Palm Sunday, which marks the triumphant welcoming of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
Welcomed into this production as Jesus Christ is British newcomer Glenn Carter. Carter comes to the U.S. directly from leading London's Whistle Down The Wind as The Man, an escaped murderer mistaken as Jesus by a group of Southern children. That wasn't the actor's first brush with Christ; he went on to star in Jesus Christ Superstar's UK national tour, after performing Simon Zealots in the 1998 West End revival of the show.
Jason Pebworth plays Judas, the betrayer of Jesus; Paul Kandel is King Herod, the wicked king who attempts to get the Son of God to "walk across [his] swimming pool," and Kevin Gray sings the conflicted Roman Pontius Pilate, who allows Jesus Christ to be sentenced to death. Maya Days is Mary, as in Magdalene, the prostitute who becomes a follower of Christ; Rodney Hicks is Peter and Tony Vincent is Simon, both disciples. Frederick B. Owens (five years in Smokey Joe's Cafe, Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death) plays Caiaphas, as he did in the recently-taped video of Superstar. Annas is played by Ray Walker.
In major American productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Judas has often been sung by an African American actor, a la Carl Anderson. This revival departs from that tradition with Pebworth, a newcomer to the Broadway scene, taking the role. Pebworth played Raoul in the US tour of The Phantom of the Opera.
Kandel last performed on Broadway as J. Bruce Ismay in Titanic. Other credits include Madison Square Garden's A Christmas Carol and a Tony-nominated turn as the child-molesting Uncle Ernie in The Who's Tommy. Gray traveled the country as Thomas Andrews in Titanic and as the Engineer in Miss Saigon. Broadway roles have included both Raoul and the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera and the King in The King And I with Faith Prince.
Days made her Broadway debut as Mimi in Rent, a role she played in the first national company and in London. Her former co-workers Hicks and Vincent, also come from the Broadway company of Rent. Hicks was in the original Broadway ensemble and understudied Benny. Vincent, a Rent understudy, also traveled with the first national company. Both Days and Vincent are recording artists, she with the debut album "Fabulous," he with the self-titled album "Tony Vincent."
Additional cast members include Christian Borle, Lisa Brescia, Hank Campbell, Merle Dandridge, D'Monroe, Bernard Dotson, Manoel Felciano, Deidre Goodwin (Chicago), Lana Gordon, Somer Lee Graham, J. Todd Howell, Michael K. Lee, Daniel C. Levine (Naked Boys Singing!), Anthony Manough, Joseph Melendez, Eric Millegan, Jessica Phillips (The Scarlet Pimpernel), Devin Richards, Michael Seelbach (Footloose), Alexander Selma, Adam Simmons, David St. Louis, Shayna Steele (Rent), Max von Essen, Timothy Warmen (The Who's Tommy), Joe Wilson, Jr. and Andrew Wright.
Australian Edwards directs. In the West End, she directed the successful British revival and tour of Jesus Christ Superstar (which began in Newcastle) and Whistle Down the Wind. Other credits include the UK tour and Australian premiere of Aspects of Love and the Broadway-bound Peter Allen musical, The Boy From Oz. Anthony Van Laast joins her as choreographer.
Designing are Peter J. Davidson (sets), Roger Kirk (costumes), Mark McCullough (lighting) and Richard Ryan (sound). Lloyd Webber provided his own orchestrations.
Superstar, the musicalized story of Jesus Christ from Palm Sunday through the crucifixion, made its world premiere on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Oct. 12, 1971. It ran there 720 performances. The original London production ran for eight years and 3,358 performances, the fifth- longest running West End show. Songs from the piece include the U.S. chart hit "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and "Superstar."
Tickets are $81-$26. The Ford Center is located at 213 West 43rd Street. For tickets, call (212) 307-4100.