PHOTO CALL: New Jesus Christ Superstar Rocks on Broadway
By Matthew Blank
The acclaimed Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's driving rock opera about the final days of Christ, began Broadway previews March 1 at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Directed by Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys, The Who's Tommy), Jesus Christ Superstar was a critical hit at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, where it played an extended, sold-out run last summer. It transferred to the La Jolla Playhouse for an engagement through Dec. 31. Superstar will officially open on Broadway March 22.
Superstar first came to life as a 1970 double LP, which is credited as the birth of the musical-theatre "concept recording." Superstar premiered on Broadway in 1971 under the direction of Tom O'Horgan. It has music by Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Rice.
The work was initially conceived as a stadium event, according to current director McAnuff, whose new production connects Christ's historic rise as a religious phenomenon to contemporary media sensationalism (the staging incorporates of crawling news tickers). The cinematic staging puts focus on the multi-layered emotional triangle between Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot and Mary Madgelene.
"I've never really been happy with it before," Lloyd Webber said of Superstar in an interview with Playbill magazine. "Now Des has got it absolutely right. In a way, this version is the opposite to the original in that it's got a grittiness and a reality about it, real rock 'n' roll, and as long as it stays rock 'n' roll, I'm a happy boy. If you go back over the years, it's amazing how many pieces that we now celebrate weren't quite right in their first incarnation. Now, it's right."
Paul Nolan leads the cast as Jesus Christ, with Josh Young as Judas Iscariot, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Tom Hewitt as Pontius Pilate, Bruce Dow as King Herod, Marcus Nance as Caiaphas and Aaron Walpole as Annas.
Completing the cast are Matt Alfano as Thaddeus, Mary Antonini as Elizabeth, Karen Burthwright as Ruth, Jacqueline Burtney as Mary (Martha's Sister), Mark Cassius as Matthew, Ryan Gifford as Bartholomew, Kaylee Harwood as Sarah, Jeremy Kushnier as James the Lesser/Priest, Mike Nadajewski as Peter, Melissa O'Neil as Martha/Maid by the Fire, Laurin Padolina as Rachel, Katrina Reynolds as Esther, Jaz Sealey as Thomas, Jason Sermonia as John, Julius Sermonia as James, Lee Siegel as Simon Zealotes, Jonathan Winsby as Phillip, Sandy Winsby as Andrew, and Nick Cartell, Krista Leis, Matthew Rossoff and Matt Stokes as swings.
Superstar has choreography by Lisa Shriver, musical direction by Rick Fox, set design by Robert Brill, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Steve Canyon Kennedy and video design by Sean Nieuwenhuis.
Dodger Properties and the Really Useful Group produce the Broadway production.
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