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.


Opening Week

It was a triumphant opening week for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and everyone here is delighted with the success of the season so far – and eagerly looking forward to all the openings still ahead.

For the gala season opening night on Monday, June 7, we held a live video feed from the red carpet at the Festival Theatre entrance. The webcast was hosted by Stratford favourite Bruce Dow (who is back this season in The Tempest and The Two Gentlemen of Verona). It was a great opportunity to meet Festival actors and other artists, and also some of the many people who work behind the scenes. We’ve put together a little montage of people Bruce spoke to:

After everyone was ushered to their seats and we sang the national anthem, the productions of opening week got underway.

Monday night the audience was treated to a wonderful production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Set in the 1920s, it has a fabulous cast and an irresistibly tuneful score to accompany the many songs that Shakespeare incorporated into the play. Tuesday, the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, dazzled us in a bold and colourful interpretation by Tony Award-winning director John Doyle.

The middle of the week brought us a rarely produced Shakespeare drama, The Winter’s Tale. Beautifully staged in the intimate Tom Patterson Theatre, it had a warm reception from both patrons and critics. Thursday, the Festival rocked out with Evita at the Avon theatre – the first rock opera Stratford has ever staged.

Friday’s opening show, the revue Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, was a real treat for music lovers – and then, to round off the week, patrons were whisked off with Wendy, Michael and John to the Never Land in J. M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan. The obvious excitement of the younger theatregoers (and the not-so young ones too) was a clear sign that the week had come to a suitably thrilling conclusion.

But opening week is just the beginning of the excitement here at Stratford: there’s lots more to come. Next to open, for instance, is a production that many newspapers – and even National Geographic – are calling the must-see event of the summer. That’s The Tempest, with the internationally renowned Christopher Plummer in the role of Prospero.

We look forward to seeing you before the season’s up at the end of October.