The North Carolina Theatre, the Triangle’s premier producer of home-grown revivals of Broadway musicals, is staging a stellar production of 1971 Broadway and 1972 West End musical Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Benson, NC-born New York City director Eric Woodall, on April 11-16 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in the heart of downtown Raleigh, NC. Woodall, who has served as resident director of the Broadway production of Mamma Mia!, previously directed NCT’s productions of Steel Magnolias (2012), Driving Miss Daisy (2014), Billy Elliot (2015), and Disney’s and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins (2016).
NCT’s Holy Week edition of Jesus Christ Superstar will star three Broadway veterans: Aleks Pevec as Jesus of Nazareth, Aaron C. Finley as Judas Iscariot, and Brennyn Lark as Mary Magdalene. Pevec performed in the Ensemble in Catch Me If You Can, as Eva’s Lover in Evita, as a Swing in Aladdin, and, most recently, as Will Power Backup Boy and Shakespeare understudy in Something Rotten! Finley performed as Drew in Rock of Ages, as Charlie Price in Kinky Boots, and, most recently, as Brian Howard in It Shoulda Been You. And Lark played Eponine in the 2014 Broadway Revival of Les Misérables.
Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice’s vintage rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar chronicles the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It began life as a concept album, released in 1970. That double album put two songs — “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Superstar” — on the pop charts nearly two years before Jesus Christ Superstar, conceived as a stage production and directed by Tom O’Horgan, made its Broadway debut on Oct. 12, 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, where it played for 711 performances before closing on July 1, 1973. The show’s original Broadway production earned five 1972 Tony Award® nominations, including one for Best Original Score, and won the 1972 Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Composer (Andrew Lloyd Webber). Ben Vereen also won a 1972 Theater World Award for his performance as Judas Iscariot.
Superstar was the first professional production of a Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical. Three subsequent Broadway Revivals of Superstar — in 1977-78, 2000, and 2012 — were shorter lived.
Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Aug. 9, 1972 at the Palace Theatre in London’s West End, ran for 3,358 performances, and became the longest-running musical in the history of the West End. (Superstar is currently the 13th-longest-running musical in West End history, behind #1 Les Misérables [11,603 performances and counting] and three other Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals: #2 The Phantom of the Opera (11,272 performances and counting], #4 Cats [8,949 performances], and #5 Starlight Express [7,406 performances], according to London Theatre Direct.)
Director Norman Jewison’s 1973 motion-picture version of Jesus Christ Superstar, starred Ted Neeley as Jesus, Carl Anderson as Judas, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary. It earned an Oscar® nomination for Best Music, Scoring Original Song Score and/or Adaptation (André Previn, Herbert W. Spencer, and Andrew Lloyd Webber).
“In 1986, while still attending South Johnston High School [in Four Oaks], I appeared in North Carolina Theatre‘s 1986 production of [Jesus Christ Superstar],” recalls NCT guest director Eric Woodall. “It was my first professional theater experience. That production starred Michael Visconti, Patrick Jude, and Betsy Friday.”
“This show capitalizes upon the human struggles of Jesus, Judas and Mary,” claims Woodall. “I am fascinated with finding the commonality between these people and our audiences today. One question that kept arising during my preparation and research was ‘Why Me?’ It is a question that all of the characters ask themselves during the musical. Most all of us have asked that same question at some point in our lives….
“In Jesus Christ Superstar,” says Eric Woodall, “Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice have written characters based upon famous Gospel figures. The story focuses on final days on earth of Jesus of Nazareth (played by Aleks Pevec); but seen, unusually, through the eyes of Judas Iscariot (Aaron Finley). As Jesus’ radical teachings are evermore embraced, Judas increasingly questions this new prophet, resulting in his betrayal.”
Woodall adds, “While this show is only an interpretation of the Bible, there is a responsibility in telling a story like this. I have been very interested in pulling our audiences into this Biblical time period through modern, contemporary eyes. As written, the show allows for that. We have taken it all a step further with our design concept.”
In addition to director Eric Woodall, the North Carolina Theatre‘s creative team for its 2017 production of Jesus Christ Superstar includes producer Carolee Baxter; NCT artistic Director Casey Hushion; choreographer Marc Kimelman; musical director Edward G. Robinson; technical director Bill Yates, Jr.; set designer Chris Bernier; lighting designer Samuel Rushen; costume designer LeGrande Smith; properties manager Aline Johnson; sound designer Brian L. Hunt; and stage manager William “Alan” Coats.
“Our beautiful set, built from scratch by Bill Yates, was designed by Chris Bernier,” notes director Eric Woodall. “We have created a Roman Coliseum-inspired set, which takes the audience from today to Biblical times, while never completely forgetting that we are in 2017. The Coliseum effect highlights the public’s influence of this story.”
He adds, “Sam Rushen has designed an amazing display of lights that take us from vulnerable, intimate moments to the huge spectacle of a rock-and-roll concert….
“LeGrande Smith has done a fantastic job of creating looks which allow contemporary storytellers to enter a Biblical Period/Roman look,” says Woodall. “Even once the actors have gone back in time, there is always a modern nod. We have kept all of the hairstyles very contemporary, as designed by Brittyne Batchelor.”
Eric Woodall says, “Our production of Jesus Christ Superstar takes place the week leading up to Easter Sunday, basically mirroring the timeframe of the events that take place in the show. This is a wonderful way to celebrate this beautiful season. Even for people who aren’t religious, it’s an incredible story of following one’s heart, and spreading goodness and brotherhood and having faith. Everybody’s searching for a little bit of that.”
SECOND OPINION: March 30th Wilmington, NC Spectrum News Coastal Carolina interview with Aleks Pevec and Brennyn Lark, conducted by Linnie Supall: http://www.twcnews.com/nc/coastal/in-depth-interview/2017/03/30/in-depth-jesus-christ-superstar.html.
The North Carolina Theatre presents JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at 7:30 p.m. April 11-14 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. April 15 and 16 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $23-$115, except $25 with college student ID.
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/843994.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 6949; firstname.lastname@example.org; or http://nctheatre.com/groups.
SHOW: http://nctheatre.com/shows/jesus-christ-superstar, https://www.facebook.com/events/270966043259188/, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/jesus-christ-superstar-7093.
2016-17 SEASON: http://nctheatre.com/show-season/201516-season.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Energy_Center_for_the_Performing_Arts#Raleigh_Memorial_Auditorium.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Saturday, April 15th, performance.
Jesus Christ Superstar (1970 concept album): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_Superstar_%28album%29 (Wikipedia),
Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber (music): http://www.andrewlloydwebber.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/andrew-lloyd-webber-12073 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0515908/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/AndrewLloydWebber (Facebook page), http://www.twitter.com/officialalw (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Lloyd_Webber (Wikipedia).
Sir Tim Rice (lyrics): http://www.timrice.co.uk/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/tim-rice-8890 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005358/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sir-Tim-Rice-Official/104931586217569 (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/sirtimrice (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Rice (Wikipedia).
Jesus Christ Superstar (1971 Broadway and 1972 West End musical): http://www.jesuschristsuperstar.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/jesus-christ-superstar-4880 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.facebook.com/jesuschristsuperstar http://www.twitter.com/jcsthemusical https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_Superstar (Wikipedia), and http://www.youtube.com/user/jesuschristsuperstar (YouTube).
Jesus Christ Superstar (1973 film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070239/ (Internet Movie Database), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/79745/Jesus-Christ-Superstar/ (Turner Classic Movies), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_Superstar_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Eric Woodall (Benson, NC-born New York City director): http://www.ericwoodall.com/ (official website), http://www.tararubincasting.com/our-team.html (Tara Rubin Casting bio), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/eric-woodall-90124 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0940106/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://www.facebook.com/eric.woodall.98 (Facebook page).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing email@example.com and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)