New view: Jesus Christ Superstar

April 2015 Posted in Arts, Culture & History
The cast of Center Stage presents a new production of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar opening April 24 at the Silverton High School Theater.

The cast of Center Stage presents a new production of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar opening April 24 at the Silverton High School Theater.

By Kristine Thomas

Helen Kelley wants theater-goers planning to see Jesus Christ Superstar to leave their expectations about what they think the play is about at the door.

“I invite people to come to the play and allow us to take them on a journey,” she said.

Center Stage presents the musical at 7:30 p.m. April 24 and 25 and May 1 and 2, and 2 p.m. May 3 at the Silverton High School theater, 1456 Pine St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students and available at the door, Seven Brides Brewing, Apples to Oranges and Citizens Bank in Silverton, and Our Town in Mount Angel.

Center Stage Director Don Kelley said he has made it a point to let the audience know they are watching a story about the Passion play recounting the Holy Week from Palm Sunday to the Crucifixion. Jesus Christ Superstar is the first musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to be produced for the professional stage.

Kelley said he makes it quite clear to his audience that this is a story – not the telling of the scriptural event. By making the set look like a warehouse with pallets ranging in height from 2 to 8-feet tall, the musical begins with the actors arriving on stage and pulling their costumes – jeans, T-shirts, suits and ties and hoodies – from a costume rack.

Because he has deep respect for the scriptural story, Kelley said it is important for him to convey to his audience this is a story that is being told from each actor’s point of view.

Director Don Kelley works with the mic system for performer Joe Huang.

Director Don Kelley works with the mic system for performer Joe Huang.

“I want people to know these are actors. The scriptural story is very sacred and important to me. This story is based on the scriptures and it is a story told by a group of people telling the story from their perspective,” Kelley said.

By relaying the story with music and dance, Kelley said he hopes the audience will gain new insights.

“What light can we shed and how can we help people understand the scriptural story?” Kelley asked.

He said he thinks a lot of characters in the story are misunderstood. Kelley added the show raises questions that were always there, such as what did Judas really know?

“Was it possible for Jesus to select a bad person as a disciple? Was Judas innately bad or playing the part he had to play,” Kelley said.

By playing the role of Judas, Greg Hiltz said he has a different perspective now.

“He was used to play a part,” Hiltz said. “He was selected to betray Jesus. He realized what he had done and he paid the price for it.”

He hopes the audience will see is how much the cast has enjoyed working on the musical. “There is great camaraderie amongst the cast,” Hiltz said.

The last play Joe Huang was in was Oliver when he was in the third grade.

A doctor and administrator at Silverton Health, Huang said he grew up loving music but until recently his singing performances were for his two young children. His wife, Amber Holt, encouraged him to try out for the musical.

“I was mildly shocked I was cast as Jesus,” he said. “The story is one that has been told and retold. Regardless of your religious beliefs or what you think of this particular story, this story is not without controversy. It’s about the humanity of Jesus and what he might have struggled through during the last events of his life.”

Huang said it’s a privilege to be a part of “an amazingly talented cast who love music.”

Don Kelley said he hopes people leave the musical feeling this is a great story. “This is an important story to us and we are sharing it in an accessible way,” Kelley said. “It’s a different insight into how the Passion occurred.’

Helen Kelley hopes the play will challenge the audience to immerse itself in what was happening and walk away learning something unexpected.

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