Jeff Clark, who serves as executive producer of the 2014 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, hopes the show will become an annual city tradition. Iconic hand graphic from 2013, which will be used again in 2014. Photo submitted
Last year’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” one of the largest-grossing shows staged by The Center for the Arts in 2013, returns this Easter weekend with its principal cast and crew for a limited four-day run.
The musical, again directed by stage veteran Renee Robinson and with MTSU student John David Welch returning in the title role, is set for five shows April 17-20 at a new venue: Murfreesboro’s Central Magnet School Auditorium, 701 E. Main St.
Jeff Clark, who serves as executive producer, is at the helm of Superstar’s return. The project is affiliated with The Center for the Arts, which is lending artistic and back-office support. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Center.
“The new venue is a familiar setting for so many Murfreesboro folks,” said Clark, a professor of computer information systems at MTSU, said of Central Magnet. “It evokes wonderful memories of great performances and personal triumphs.
“We think it’s a great place to plant a new tradition.”
Evening performances are set for Thursday, April 17; Friday, April 18; and Saturday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m., with matinee shows scheduled for 2 p.m. on April 19 and on Easter Sunday, April 20.
Tickets are available at the Center’s box office at 110 W. College St. in Murfreesboro; by calling 615-904-2787; or online at www.BoroArts.org.
Labor of love
For Clark, diagnosed with throat cancer before the show when into rehearsals, bringing Superstar back to Murfreesboro took on a greater importance.
“Many months ago, our director, Renee Robinson, and I decided to try and get the rights for this great show and attempt to make it a middle Tennessee Easter tradition. We were excited to discover that the cast of the 2013 edition shared our dreams.
“So off we went. A few months later, I was diagnosed with cancer on the base of my tongue. I was told that my long-term prognosis was good but that I should expect a really uncomfortable several months of chemo and radiation treatments.
“Well, they were right about the uncomfortable. I began treatment in October and I expect to be involved with my recovery in pretty demanding ways for another couple of months.”
Clark said Robinson and he were at the “go/no go” point with the show when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“Truthfully ‘go’ was the only alternative I seriously considered. I think it’s too good and too important of a show give up on easily. Our leadership team committed, our cast committed, and I committed and we are working together to bring a great Easter theater experience to middle Tennessee.”
Clark said he attends as many of the Superstar rehearsals as he can while balancing his therapy.
“Frankly, I’m pretty limited at what I can do right now. I have real physical limitations. But I can dream, encourage, hope, and pray and I’m very excited to be able to do that for Jesus Christ Superstar."
A show for Easter
Clark and Robinson, whose credits as a director includes the Center’s recent productions of It’s a Wonderful Life, Rent and Aida, said they would like to see Superstar become an annual Easter tradition in the Murfreesboro theater scene.
Based on the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, the show is drawn from the Gospels’ accounts of the week leading to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
“Superstar is such a wonderful show to put on during the Easter season,” she said. “When I lived in Wisconsin, my theater company did it every year and every year it was such a wonderful tradition not only to be a cast member of the show but also as an audience member.”
Robinson acknowledged expectations are running high with the return of all the principal cast members, including Welch, a graduating senior in MTSU’s School of Music; Jimmy Saiz as Judas; and Natalie Klein as Mary Magdalene.
“I think we all have a higher expectation this time around. We did the show because we loved it. I think we were unprepared to see how much the audiences loved it.
“Our goal for this production is to take our best show of 2013 and make that our starting point for the 2014 production. We want to improve because it did impact so many people. Now we want to go further and do even better.”
And the venue, Robinson said, is both exciting and challenging. The Central Magnet auditorium can seat up to five times the capacity of the Center’s theater. And the acting troupe will not have access to the stage until just before Opening Day.
“Being in a new venue is definitely exciting. Not being able to rehearse on the stage will be a challenge, but I feel it will keep us on our toes,” she said.
“I’m really looking forward to using a bigger stage as there are scenes that can be more spread out. You can definitely have some fun with opening up more scenes when on a larger stage.”