‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ to Open Nationwide Tour at Bass Concert Hall – Entertainment & Life – Austin 360
In 2014, the British newspaper The Guardian published an article on the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar” in which the writer was of the opinion that Judas, “like the devil, has all the best tunes”. Whether this is true or not, the show presents something like a view from Judas on the last days of Jesus’ life, leading up to the crucifixion. Austin is the first stop on the nationwide tour of what is billed as the 50th anniversary production (well, almost; the original Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice double-opera rock opera released in 1970), opening Tuesday and playing until to October 13. at the Bass Concert Hall. These are the same creative team that produced the acclaimed “Superstar” at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theater in London in 2016.
James Delisco Beeks, who plays Judas in the touring company, is a seasoned performer who previously performed the role in 2006 at the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, Massachusetts. He also recounts having played Simon and being the understudy of Judas in a production of “Superstar” at the Austin Music Theater; “I think it was in 2005,” he says.
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When “Superstar” first came out, protests of profanity were made against the show from some neighborhoods, but that hasn’t been the case for some time. “It’s one of the most remade musicals in high schools today and community theaters,” Beeks said. “It really is a beloved piece; the music alone, all the influences from The Who to the Beatles, the great artists of the 60s and 70s. All of those influences are there and you can’t deny the driving force that is there.
Beeks describes the production as a reimagined concept taking inspiration from the original album.
“The intention to imitate is what we are looking for,” he says. “Plus the dancing is amazing. I would say it’s like a ballet told through a rock opera.
“The choreography is really amazing. It’s like (you can) put on some earplugs and watch the whole thing tell the story through dance. It’s pretty amazing, the endurance they have to do for 90 minutes. People will leave inspired.
Contrary to the conventional biblical view of Judas as one of the great villains of Scripture, “Superstar” does not view Judas that way, and neither does Beeks. Discussing his research on the role, the actor mentions the Gospel of Judas, a non-canonical Gnostic Christian text discovered in the 20th century (google Gospel of Judas if you’re intrigued).
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“It gave a different perspective on Judas,” he says. “Judas was one of (Jesus’) favorite disciples, and he did what he had to do. When I studied the character, you can see that there is a bias – the Bible was written by men, there is a human bias in there, but Judas had a nuanced story to tell and I wanted to get this story across. He had to do what he had to do, otherwise (Jesus’) plan of salvation would not have been realized.
In the end, of course, “Superstar” is entertainment, a musical diversion, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to say.
“Oh yeah. That leaves a questioning,” Beeks said. “I live by the mantra of ‘questioning everything’. People leave questioning, it’s just a prospect because you feel for the guy.
You could say that we all have our part to play in the grand design.