Actors share their experiences in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ 50th anniversary tour

Photo courtesy of Matthew Murphy

The Boise State Morrison Center hosted the musical rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” for the production’s 50th anniversary tour for a limited time between Oct. 28-30. 

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is a mesmerizing production set during the events before the death of Jesus Christ, as seen through the eyes of Judas. 

According to Broadway World, the production began as a groundbreaking rock album by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1969 in hopes of conceiving a theater piece. When no one was interested in producing it, Webber and Rice created a concept album instead. 

In 1971, the album went to Billboard’s top 100 above George Harrison and Tina Turner.

The album eventually made its Broadway debut performance in 1971, though originally started out with illegal stage performances by smaller theater companies before developing into a film adaptation in 1973.

Historically, “Jesus Christ Superstar” has received mixed reviews among critics, some calling it “sacrilegious.” During its creation in the 70s, it was banned by the BBC. 

However, others see the production as a way to look at Jesus in a historical context outside of religion and humanize the characters and story.

Nicholas Hambruch, who plays Pilate in the production, started performing in shows and theaters when he was six years old. For him, “Jesus Christ Superstar” has always been a favorite album.

“The show is beautifully faithful, but not religious. If you are somebody who grew up in the church, it’s the story you know and love and it’s great,” Hambruch said. “If you are someone who didn’t grow up in the church, it’s not a show that’s trying to change your view. It’s a story of love and betrayal, and power and friendship taught beautifully through song and dance, insane vocals, insane choreography, and it doesn’t ask you to believe anything other than what you already feel. It  provides you with the emotional context to view the story.” 

“Jesus Christ Superstar ” is an impressive work of musical theater, acting as the lovechild of rock opera, a little bit of screamo and a touch of gospel in an incredibly diverse landscape that incorporates breathtakingly soulful dancing that takes much inspiration from traditional African Dance.

[Photo from the 50th anniversary tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”]
Photo courtesy of Matthew Murphy

Kodiak Thompson, who plays Annas, also got his start in theater around the age of 6 and went on to pursue a BFA in musical theater. Thompson had never seen the show or movie until he auditioned for production.

 “I remember crying and laughing. I was just utterly in awe of the actors and especially the diversity in the original film. Like that was revolutionary in 1973, to have people who represent the global majority playing these roles (that) have such an iconic story.” Thomson said.

Hambruch believes that this production is for everybody because it’s unique and continues to reinvent itself. It is beautiful in the sense that it stays true to the original record and production from the 70s, but has been adapted in a modern way.

“The choreography is something that I think is new and kind of sets the show apart,” Hambruch said. “It’s not just intense, fun dancing. Every movement has such an emotional pulse to it. Everything is very intentional and story driven. The actions are guttural and athletic. It is the most impressive vocals I’ve heard in any show, these people are insane.”

The show was directed differently in comparison to other shows Thomson has acted in.

“This was very refreshing in that each and every artist on the team was brought in because their natural essence is what they wanted for the story,” Thomson said. “Every note was, ‘Be yourself, come back to the music, sing the words and that’s enough.’”

According to Hambruch, the entire cast gathers together before each showing and joins hands in a circle to take deep breaths. This has become a pre-show ritual for the cast during their 50th anniversary tour.

“A lot of times we’ll say healing words and sit there in silence,” Hambruch said. “And people will just put words and thoughts into the space. People will say love, support, kindness, really just things to get everybody warm and ready. There is a moment of shaking everything out and being there for each other and then we hear the sting of the electric guitar and we’re ready.”

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