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Broadway Series South Preview: Broadway Series South Brings Revamped Version of Jesus Christ Superstar to Raleigh

November 27, 2003 - Raleigh, NC:


Broadway Series South will bring the critically acclaimed 2003 North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar to Raleigh Memorial Auditorium Dec. 2-7 as the second show of its 2003-04 season. Director Kevin Moriarty and choreographer Dana Solimando's brand-new version of composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice's vintage rock opera will star three Broadway veterans: Eric Kunze as Jesus Christ; Mocksville, NC native Lawrence Clayton as Judas Iscariot; and Natalie Toro as Mary Magdalene.

The 2003 North American Tour started with former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach playing Jesus and Superstar stage and film star Carl Anderson portraying Judas. Eric Kunze replaced Bach this past spring; and later, when Anderson was injured, Lawrence Clayton stepped in to play Judas.

On Broadway, Eric Kunze played Marius in Les Misérables (opposite Lea Salonga), Chris in Miss Saigon, and Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees (with Jerry Lewis).

The Broadway credits of African-American actor Lawrence Clayton include Bells Are Ringing, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, The Civil War, Once Upon a Mattress, High Roller Social Pleasure Club, and Dreamgirls.

On Broadway, Natalie Toro played Eponine in Les Misérables and Sally in the original New York cast of Alan Menken's A Christmas Carol.

Director Kevin Moriarty and choreographer Dana Solimando have based their direction and choreography on the direction and choreography of Gale Edwards and Anthony Van Laast, who staged the 2000 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. The creative team for the current touring version of Superstar also includes musical director/conductor Craig Barna, scenic designer Peter J. Davison, costume designer Roger Kirk, lighting designer Mark McCullough and sound designers Jon Gottlieb and Phil Allen. The Really Useful Superstar Company, Inc. and Nederlander Presentations, Inc., in association with Terry Allen Kramer, are the show's producers; and Tom McCoy of McCoy Rigby Entertainment is its executive producer.

This classic British rock opera, which chronicles the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, began life as a rock album recorded in 1969. That double album put two songs "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and "Superstar" on the pop charts nearly two years before Jesus Christ Superstar made its Broadway debut on October 12, 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York City.

Superstar was the first professional production of a Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical. The original Broadway production of Superstar ran for 711 performances and was nominated for five 1972 Tony Awards® (including Best Original Score). Two subsequent Broadway revivals in 1977-78 and 2000 were shorter lived.

Jesus Christ Superstar opened on August 9, 1972 at the Palace Theatre in London's West End, ran for 3,358 performances, and became the longest-running musical in the history of the West End. (Superstar is currently the fifth-longest-running musical in West End history, behind Les Misérables and three other Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals: Cats, Starlight Express, and Phantom of the Opera.)

Director Norman Jewison's Oscar-nominated 1973 motion-picture version of Superstar, starred Ted Neeley as Jesus, Carl Anderson as Judas, and Yvonne Elliman.

Kudos for the 2003 North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar include a claim by the Orange County Register that "...this is one slick, high-tech 'Superstar.' Director Kevin Moriarty's vision of the final days in Christ's life mixes a panoply of visual styles, from classic biblical to contemporary to sleek and futuristic (Roman soldiers clad as 22nd-century riot police? Why not!). Rather than distort the 1971 hit musical, this concept underscores how timeless the story has always been."

In The Daily Breeze of Torrance, California, Jeff Favre writes, "...the performances of Eric Kunze [as Jesus] and Lawrence Clayton [as Judas] ignite the stage with powerhouse voices and high-caliber acting… Clayton proves with the opening number, 'Heaven on Their Minds,' that he has the dramatic voice for the part. And Kunze displays extreme vocal range with 'The Temple,' in a scene filled with flashing stock tickers"

Carrie T. Gruman-Trinkner, writing for The Post-Crescent of Appleton, Wisconsin, says, "Natalie Toro... is a fine Mary Magdalene. Her voice is rich and full with a warm, dark sound. Her version of the most famous song from the show, 'I Don't Know How To Love Him,' was beautifully sung."

Chicago Daily Herald correspondent Jack Helbig adds, "The show is filled with supple, beautiful voices, capable of negotiating both the operatic and rock sides to Webber's music. The actor playing Caiaphas, Lawson Skala, has a particularly fine bass. And Stephen Breithaupt's strong, muscular voice conveys well Pontius Pilate's dilemma: he has the authority of Rome behind him, but isn't sure he wants to be implicated in the execution of Jesus, a man who appears to him merely a harmless religious crank."

Broadway Series South presents Jesus Christ Superstar Tuesday-Friday, Dec. 2-5, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 6, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 7, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $16-$66. Ticketmaster: 919/834-4000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/artist/843994. Group Sales: 919/231-4575 or http://www.priorityseating.net/. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2003-2004/broadway.html#jcs. Really Useful Group: http://www.reallyuseful.com/shows/jcs/show_home.asp [inactive 5/04]. 2003 Tour Cast: http://www.reallyuseful.com/shows/jcs/castlist01.asp?pvar=226 [inactive 5/04]. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=4880 (original production: 1971-73 and two revivals: 1977-78 and 2000). Internet Movie Database (1973 Film): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0070239/. Andrew Lloyd Webber: http://www.westegg.com/unmaintained/alw/. Eric Kunze: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=83884. Lawrence Clayton: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=35552. Natalie Toro: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?id=83991 and http://www.natalietoro.com/.