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.


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.