Press Release: Jesus Christ Superstar to move to La Jolla Playhouse

The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is delighted to announce that its hit production of Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Artistic Director Des McAnuff, is moving to La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego this November.

Lyricist Tim Rice and Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber both gave the production high praise after seeing it earlier this month and the production received glowing reviews across the board.

The Globe and Mail raved, “This production is an absolute miracle,” while the Toronto Star called it “the best show you’ll see this year.” “A sparkling production literally pulsing with life,” wrote the Toronto Sun; and Variety enthused, “McAnuff has managed to come up with a vision that is faithful to the original but manages to make it seem fresh to an audience in 2011.”

Jesus Christ Superstar will play at La Jolla Playhouse’s Mandell Weiss Theatre from November 18 to December 31.

“Given my long, happy and fruitful history with La Jolla Playhouse, I am naturally thrilled by the prospect of this collaboration between our two great theatres,” says Mr. McAnuff. “The pride I take in the magnificent work being done by our Festival artists in Jesus Christ Superstar is matched by my deep appreciation to La Jolla for giving us this wonderful opportunity to showcase that work to an audience of which I am very fond – an audience that, like Stratford’s, is accustomed to enjoying some of the finest theatre in the world.”

“We are absolutely delighted that we will be able to share this production with La Jolla Playhouse audiences,” says General Director Antoni Cimolino. “Jesus Christ Superstar has created a huge buzz in the media and the show has become one of our hottest tickets. It’s a pleasure to work with our colleagues in La Jolla to take this ‘Superstar’ on the road.”

“We are absolutely overjoyed to showcase the Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s stunning revival of Jesus Christ Superstar on our stage,” says Christopher Ashley, the Artistic Director for La Jolla Playhouse. “We have been looking for an opportunity to bring Des back home to the Playhouse, and this project was perfect in every way. I can’t wait to share this critically acclaimed production of this classic rock musical with our audiences.”

Set as an epic rock concert, this sensational new production of the ground-breaking rock opera features Paul Nolan as Jesus, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Josh Young as Judas Iscariot, Tony Award winner Brent Carver as Pontius Pilate, Bruce Dow as King Herod and Mike Nadajewski as Peter.

In addition to Mr. McAnuff as Director, the creative team includes Choreographer Lisa Shriver, Musical Director Rick Fox, Set Designer Robert Brill, Costume Designer Paul Tazewell, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Jim Neil, Video Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis, Dramaturge Chad Sylvain, Fight Director Daniel Levinson, Aerial Stunt Coordinator Simon Fon, Associate Choreographer Bradley “Shooz” Rapier, Associate Musical Director Laura Burton, Assistant Director Lezlie Wade and Assistant Choreographer Marc Kimelman.

Before joining the Stratford Shakespeare Festival as Artistic Director, Mr. McAnuff was Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse from 1983 to 1994 and 2001 to 2007 and is now Director Emeritus. A two-time Tony Award-winning director, Mr. McAnuff received an honorary doctorate in June from his alma mater, Ryerson University in Toronto.

The Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse was founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, and is one of the most respected not-for-profit theatres in the U.S. Numerous Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, including Jersey Boys, Big River, The Who’s Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays, and The Farnsworth Invention, all of which were directed by Mr. McAnuff.

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Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris ~ Preview Performance

Jacques Brel thumbnail Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris Brent Carver as Brent Photo by: Andrew Eccles

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris
Production conception, English lyrics and additional material by Eric Blau and Mort Shuman
Based on Jacques Brel’s lyrics and commentary
Music by Jacques Brel

May 14 to September 25 ~ Opening June 11

I recently attended the second preview of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Having enjoyed the music of Jacques Brel for many years, I was thrilled to find this show on our playbill for the 2010 season and was really excited at the prospect of seeing it.

Jacques Brel is different from the other musicals you’ll see at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival this season. It’s best described as a musical revue, which means that it’s purely a compilation of songs, without an overall story linking them all together. This is a bit of a milestone for the Festival: although we’ve presented musical revues before, we haven’t done so since the 1970s, and even then they were usually programmed as ancillary events, with only a few performances. Jacques Brel, though, is a full-blown part of the playbill – and the intimate Tom Patterson Theatre is the perfect setting for a cabaret-style show like this.

For those of you unfamiliar with him, Jacques Brel was a Belgian singer-songwriter whose songs tell stories not just of love but of the whole human experience. He first won renown – and a prestigious award – while he was living in Paris, and he went on to become an international star. The way his music speaks to the soul has influenced many other artists, including Leonard Cohen and David Bowie.

When you enter the Tom Patterson Theatre, you’re transported to a cabaret space that feels like it’s been abandoned for years and filled with the spirits of a bygone era. Those spirits, as if by magic, are made flesh in the performers – Jewelle Blackman, Brent Carver, Mike Nadajewski and Nathalie Nadon (the singers), along with Laura Burton, Anna Atkinson, George Meanwell and Luc Michaud (the orchestra) – from the moment they ritualistically enter the performing space.

By turns haunting and humorous but always beautiful, each of the songs tells an individual story, sometimes played out on stage and sometimes left for the audience to imagine. For this production, the Festival’s Director of Music, Rick Fox, has re-orchestrated the songs to give them more of the cabaret flavour they had when Brel originally performed them. Here are just some of the wonderful numbers you’ll hear: “Timid Frieda,” “Le Moribond” (which some of you may know from its English-language version, “Seasons in the Sun”), “Amsterdam” (once covered by David Bowie), “The Bulls” and “Carousel.”

When I saw this show, it was a cool gray day in Stratford – but when I came out, I felt like I was in Paris in the spring. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon or evening, so be sure to catch it. Jacques Brel runs till September 25 at the Tom Patterson Theatre.

Dress Rehearsal ~ As You Like It

As You Like It From left: Brent Carver as Jaques, Ben Carlson as Touchstone, Cara Ricketts as Celia, Paul Nolan as Orlando and Andrea Runge as Rosalind Photo by: Andrew Eccles

As You Like It

By William Shakespeare

April 30 to October 31 – Opens June 7

Last week the company was invited to the dress rehearsal of As You Like It, and I must say it was a real treat to have the opportunity to watch this show. Having grown up in Stratford, I have watched a number of productions at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the first of which was a production of As You Like It – which for me, like many others, was a life-changing experience.

Walking into the Festival Theatre is an experience itself, and I am in awe every time I enter that theatre. So when I went in to watch the 2010 production of As You Like It, directed by our Artistic Director, Des McAnuff, I thought I knew what I was going to see. But even so, I didn’t expect it to be quite so gorgeous. This production is set in the 1920s, a beautiful period with stunning clothing and eye-popping surrealist art.

As You Like It takes place in two different realms. The first is that of the court, where a coup has just taken place. Duke Senior has been usurped by his brother, Duke Frederick, and banished from the court. Frederick then also banishes his niece Rosalind, who decides the best thing to do is disguise herself as a man before she enters the Forest of Arden (which is of course the second realm). To make a long story short, Rosalind and Orlando (who was smitten with her even before they entered the forest) fall in love, as do three other couples. In the end they all get married, and all is restored.

One aspect of this show that really stands out is its music. The Festival has had a number of composers write music for past productions of As You Like It, the last time being in 2005, when the Barenaked Ladies supplied the score. This time we have a descendant of Duke Ellington as the composer of the songs ¬– and what wonderful music he has created! Other music for this production was created by Michael Roth who was musical director on Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. The tunes have a twenties feel to them and make you want to Charleston along with the cast. Once the songs started, I didn’t want them to stop.

The cast is as talented as the design is beautiful. Several members are from this season’s Conservatory class, including two favourites from last season: Paul Nolan (who played Tony in West Side Story) and Andrea Runge (Cecily from The Importance of Being Earnest). Playing beside them is a fine mix of others who have delighted us before at Stratford, including Ben Carlson and Brian Tree and the return of Brent Carver.

As You Like It runs from April 30 through October 31, opening June 7.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

First Forest Lord………………………………………………………………… Sean Arbuckle
Phoebe………………………………………………………………………………….. Dalal Badr
First Page……………………………………………………………………… Jewelle Blackman
Dennis………………………………………………………………………………. Skye Brandon
Touchstone…………………………………………………………………………… Ben Carlson
Jaques………………………………………………………………………………… Brent Carver
Charles / William…………………………………………………………………… Dan Chameroy
Ensemble……………………………………………………………………………… Victor Dolhai
Oliver Martext……………………………………………………………………… Victor Ertmanis
Le Beau………………………………………………………………………………… Xuan Fraser
Musician…………………………………………………………………………………. Ian Harper
Ensemble……………………………………………………………………………… Alana Hawley
Corin………………………………………………………………………………… Randy Hughson
Ensemble………………………………………………………………………………. Robin Hutton
Silvius………………………………………………………………………………………. Ian Lake
Hymen…………………………………………………………………………………….. Roy Lewis
Musician………………………………………………………………………….. George Meanwell
Understudy……………………………………………………………………………. Ginette Mohr
Amiens…………………………………………………………………………….. Mike Nadajewski
Hisperia……………………………………………………………………………… Nathalie Nadon
Orlando……………………………………………………………………………………. Paul Nolan
Fourth Forest Lord…………………………………………………………….. Stephen Patterson
Audrey………………………………………………………………………………… Lucy Peacock
Second Forest Lord………………………………………………………….. Christopher Prentice
Jaques de Boys…………………………………………………………………… Jonathan Purdon
Celia……………………………………………………………………………………. Cara Ricketts
Duke Frederick / Duke Senior………………………………………………………… Tom Rooney
Rosalind……………………………………………………………………………….. Andrea Runge
Oliver……………………………………………………………………………………… Mike Shara
Adam………………………………………………………………………………………. Brian Tree
Second Page……………………………………………………………….. Abigail Winter-Culliford

Artistic team

Director……………………………………………………………………………….. Des McAnuff
Scenic Designer…………………………………………………………………….. Debra Hanson
Costume Designer………………………………………………………………….. Dana Osborne
Lighting Designer………………………………………………………………….. Michael Walton
Composer, Original Songs…………………………………………………………. Justin Ellington
Composer, Musical Director…………………………………………………………. Michael Roth