Opera House Theatre Company presents Jesus Christ Superstar, the "rock opera" from 1970. Director Suellen Yates and actor Jason Aycock, playing the title role, joined us in the studio. The show is onstage at Thalian Hall through June 25: June 7-11, 16-18, and 23-25. Performances are at 8:00pm except Sundays, which are at 3:00pm. Listen to Suellen and Jason discuss the show above; see a transcript below.
Gina: This is Communique from WHQR in Wilmington North Carolina. I'm Gina Gambony. Opera House Theatre Company Presents “the greatest story ever told” in the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Wilmington actor Jason Aycock plays the title role.
Jason: It really starts about a week out from the crucifixion and it kind of tells the interplay between Jesus and his inner circle, most specifically, Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene. But but it also features Pontius Pilot and Herod. how it all comes be.
Gina: Wilmington stage veteran Suellen Yates is directing the show. She’s seen this rock opera more times than she can remember. In fact, she saw Jesus Christ Superstar at the height of its controversy.
Suellen: I believe Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice never intended to influence anybody's religious beliefs. They just wanted to tell the story, and that's what we've decided to do, to go back and just tell the story that they have written. I am old enough to have seen it in the 70s when it was highly controversial. And the first time I saw it, I truly was moved and I came from a conservative Methodist background. I could not imagine why there was any controversy about this show. I found it extremely passionate and extremely moving to the point where it made me think about my religion in a very positive and enlightened way, particularly about the suffering that Jesus goes through. And let me tell you, there is a lot of stuff that this young man has to go through on stage physically as well as emotionally. And also the story of Judas and what is his role in this play, in these events. Is he a puppet of God...is he the villain...and it makes you stop and think about his humanity and what suffering he must have gone through which makes it compelling and interesting on a human level where you get invested with these characters.
Gina: Suellen says there were two main difficulties in directing this show. First the issue of finding the range of voices required.
Suellen: How are we going to find voices for this incredibly difficult and challenging music which has ranged from very high to very low? And I can say we can check that box off because we have an incredible 28 member cast, there's 28 and every one of them has a very vital, vital part to this. The second challenge would be how do we make this show fresh and exciting and new and surprising to people who have seen this. There are a lot of people have seen it numerous times. I myself have seen it more times than I can count. I think you're going to find all kinds of surprises from the opening curtain all the way through the curtain call. There's going to be a lot of wild moments and one of them is the set. It's right away an “oh wow” moment when the curtain comes up. I'm so excited for people to see it. Terry Collins has done a great great job.
Jason: And then it's framed by these wonderful lights by Dallas [LaFon]. He came back into town to work on the show and just cool effects that I've never seen before. And I've known Dallas for a long time and he really has pulled out all the stops…
Suellen: He’s very excited about this show and the light show is going to be extraordinary. And the music among us our orchestra-I get I still get goosebumps in some of the numbers. And it's a variety of music, people think it's a rock opera, rock musical, but it's lyrical. It's vaudeville. It's you know, a whole range of music, not just rock.
Gina: That was director Suellen Yeats and actor Jason Aycock from Opera House Theater Company's production of Jesus Christ Superstar. The show is on stage at Thalian Hall through June 25th. Details at WHQR.org.