Rock Resurrection: Jesus Christ Superstar Opens On Broadway March 22

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22 Mar 2012

Josh Young and Paul Nolan
Josh Young and Paul Nolan
Photo by Joan Marcus

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock oratorio Jesus Christ Superstar gets a 21st-century makeover from Tony-winning director Des McAnuff in the critically acclaimed Stratford Shakespeare Festival production, which officially opens on Broadway March 22 at the Neil Simon Theatre.

McAnuff (The Who's Tommy, Jersey Boys) has focused Christ's rise as a religious phenomenon through the lens of rapid-fire, present-day media sensationalism, with crawling news tickers indicating time and place. Projections illustrate the atmosphere and population of the last days of Christ, in the Year 33 (as one image indicates). The cinematic flourishes happen on and around a steel-frame (with moving staircases) that serves as the platform for the emotional triangle between Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot and Mary Madgelene.

Superstar arrived on Broadway March 1 following an extended, sold-out run last summer at the Stratford Festival, where McAnuff is artistic director, in Ontario. It transferred to the La Jolla Playhouse for an engagement through Dec. 31.

The March 22 Broadway opening also coincides with Tony, Academy and Oliver Award-winning composer Lloyd Webber's 64th birthday. The latest production marks the third Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar since its world-premiere staging in 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre.

It is a rich season on Broadway for the popular composer, whose long-running hit The Phantom of the Opera is now in its 24th year at the Majestic Theatre, and a revival of Evita is currently in previews at the Marquis Theatre marching toward an April 5 opening.



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.

Chilina Kennedy in Jesus Christ Superstar.
photo by Joan Marcus

"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.

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival production of Jesus Christ Superstar is produced The Dodgers and The Really Useful Group, Latitude Link, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, Pelican Group, Waxman-Dokton, with Joe Corcoran, Detsky/Sokolowski/Kassie, Florin-Blanshay-Fan/Broadway Across America, REG/Caudwell, Shin/Coleman, Theatre Dreams North America, LLC.

Read Playbill.com Second Floor of Sardi's feature in which Superstar director Des McAnuff talks about his rock 'n' roll heart.

Check out the Playbill.com feature about family members who find themselves cast together in this production.

For tickets visit Ticketmaster, or phone (877) 250-2929.

View Playbill.com's highlights from Jesus Christ Superstar here: