The spring musical Jesus Christ Superstar opens next weekend, and the cast and crew are readying for opening night. This is the second time the rock opera, which portrays the final week of Jesus’ life as seen from Judas’ point of view, has been staged at Providence, the first being in 1995. This version has a modern look in an urban setting and extends the story to Jesus’ resurrection.
Many in the cast have been waiting years to perform this show in the Robinson Auditorium, including senior Eli Lucas, who portrays Jesus. Jesus Christ Superstar has a special meaning for him in part because watching the 1973 film starring Ted Neeley has been an annual tradition for him and his stepmother, Meredith (Beeler) Lucas ’96, since he was in grade school. She shared with him her love for show, not only for the film but also memories of her own performance in the
ensemble on the Providence stage her junior year.
Eli loved the music and has wanted the theatre department to reprise its production of the rock opera since his freshman year. When he learned he was cast in the role of Jesus, his stepmother was the first person he called. Meredith pulled out her old VHS copy of the Providence production, and the two watched some of it together.
“Even in the ensemble, she was very animated, just like she is now,” Eli said. “So it was kind of cool to see her out of her element and performing on stage.”
Eli said that as much as he has anticipated being in the show, playing the role of Jesus is intimidating but that his faith has helped him in the portrayal.
“It’s just tapping into your personal relationship with God and Jesus and drawing on that and playing the part to the best of your ability and the best person that God would want you to be,” he said. “That’s when Jesus will shine through.”
Meredith said she is eagerly awaiting seeing Eli and his friends in the 2018 Providence production.
“I had such an incredible experience all those years ago and to be able to see it again on the PHS stage is thrilling,” she said. “This musical is definitely something special. I can’t wait to end my Lenten-Easter experience with it and the powerful message it brings.”
For senior Andrew Bittenbender, who plays Judas, presenting the show on the Providence stage has been something he has wanted to do since he was an apostle in the summer 2016 Jeffersonville RiverStage production of the show, one directed by Providence’s technical theatre director Ronnie Breedlove. Like Eli, portraying Jesus’ betrayer is challenging. In the biblical accounts, Judas’ motivation for betraying Jesus seems to be only monetary. But in the musical, Judas is Jesus’ right hand man and is deeply concerned that Jesus is leading them all to their death.
“He (Judas) has different ideas and is worried he (Jesus) has gone too far and Rome might crush them,” Andrew said.
Senior Emme Wade portrays Mary Magdalene in her first lead role in a musical. She said she is looking forward to showcasing her acting and vocal abilities on stage as she plays a strong female character.
Emme said that she feels her faith has grown stronger as she has rehearsed her role and has come to see Mary Magdalene and her relationship with Jesus in a new light.
“People looked at her scornfully because of her profession, but Jesus didn’t see that,” she said. “It helped me see it doesn’t matter who you are but you can take part in your faith.”
The production will begin with Premiere Night on April 13 at 8:00 p.m. Regular evening performances will be April 14, 19 and 20 at 7:00 p.m. The two matinee performances will be April 15 and 22 at 2:00 p.m. For tickets, order online or call (812) 945-2538 ext. 301.
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