Jesus Christ Superstar comes to our region

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Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, York Stage Musicals are proud to be granted the rights to perform the Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice hit musical JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR this Easter at the Grand Opera House, York.

Told through the eyes of Judas Iscariot, Jesus Christ Superstar follows the final seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. From his rise to fame, threatening those in power around him, to Judas’ infamous betrayal that leads to the capture and eventual death of Christ by crucifixion. The story is told through a series of rock-opera songs such as ‘What’s The Buzz’, ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’, ‘Gethsemane’ and the infamous title theme, ‘Superstar’.

Jesus Christ Superstar was the first musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to be produced for the professional stage. The show opened on 12th October 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York with the London production opening on 9th August 1972 starring Paul Nicholas (Jesus), Stephen Tate (Judas) and Dana Gillespie (Mary Magdalene). By the time it closed, after some eight years and 3,358 performances, it had become the longest-running musical in West End history, receiving no less than six Tony awards.

The recording of the score of the show, with Deep Purple lead-singer Ian Gillan (Jesus), Murray Head (Judas) and Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene), topped the American album charts three times.

Like Ian Gillan, York Stage Musicals leading player Henry Bird is the vocalist of his own rock band The Pauper Kings, in addition to touring the UK with 80’s pop icon Toyah Wilcox in Steve Steinman’s Vampires Rock.

Henry, 26, is looking forward to reprising the role of Jesus, a part he first played at York Theatre Royal in 2004 to critical acclaim. Making his company debut for York Stage Musicals, Henry will be joined by a fresh young cast in this new interpretation of the Lloyd-Webber and Rice classic.

Also making his YSM company debut is Alex Hogg from Harrogate who will take on the role as traitor Judas Iscariot for the fourth time in his career. Alex beat thousands of people to reach the final ten contestants on Channel 4 search for a musical-theatre star programme ‘Musicality’ in 2004 and has since played many principal roles, appearing regularly in Leeds & Harrogate.

Joining Henry and Alex are company regulars Alicia Roberts as Mary Magdalene, Royal Academy of Music-trained Nik Briggs as Pontius Pilate and the ever-brilliant Alex Papachristou as King Herod.

Terry Ford and Callum O’Connell appear as head priests Caiaphas and Annas. Stuart Rae will play Peter, singing the moving duet ‘Could We Start Again Please’, and Aran Macrae will belt the rousing anthem ‘Simon Zealotes’ as he plays the apostle of the same name.

Director and set designer Robert Readman praises his cast of almost 60 performers for their ability to take on one of the most famous stories in the world.

“We are very lucky to be granted the rights to perform this most famous of Lloyd-Webber musicals in its anniversary year at such an appropriate time of year”, he adds.

Joining Robert on the production team is BBC Radio York breakfast DJ Adam Tomlinson who will take on the role as Musical Director. Adam, a former professional Musical Director, worked on shows such as Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Show and Jesus Christ Superstar, in a late nineties touring production.

Adam acknowledges how vocally demanding the show is, in particular for the two leads: “The vocal range and power required for the actors playing Jesus and Judas is incredibly difficult. I know Henry and Alex will blow you away with their superb voices”.

YSM choreographers Jessica Hardcastle and Lesley Hill will provide the show’s choreography, reuniting for the first time since 2008 where they choreographed YSM’s vibrant production of The Wiz together. Jessica has enjoyed once again working as choreographer for YSM since taking a year’s break to have a baby last May.

“Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock-opera, therefore the freestyle vibe and energy the choreography must deliver is equally as important”, says Jessica.

York Stage Musicals will perform Jesus Christ Superstar from Monday 18 April to Saturday 23 April inclusive. Evening performances will start at 7:30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2:30pm. Tickets are £14 - £21 and are available from the Grand Opera House box office on 0844 871 3024 or book online at www.grandoperahouseyork.org.uk