For 50 years, Jesus Christ Superstar has resonated with audiences – whether it was on the stage, film, television, or cast albums – and now this iconic musical is on tour and thrilling audiences in Philadelphia from Tuesday, May 2 through Sunday, May 7.
The 50th Anniversary Tour features the remarkable acting and singer prowess of Jack Hopewell — a University of the Arts 2022 graduate — in the title role of Jesus, and the melodic and powerful singing and acting of Faith Jones in the leading role of Mary Magdalene. When she sings the heart-felt Everything’s Alright and Could We Start Again, Please, we feel the emotions she is feeling. Rounding out the mesmerizing trio is Elvie Ellis as Judas. The entire production is powerful, emotional, memorable, and filled with extremely expressive choreography.
The reinvented revival won a 2017 Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival and played to sold-out audiences in London. Following critically acclaimed engagements in the UK, the reimagined 50th Anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar comes to the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Miller Theater (formerly the Merriam Theater).
With such demanding physical and emotional roles, it would be easy to predict that one or more of the cast members would fall short, but in this production, no one disappoints. In fact, they each give 120 percent to the singing, dancing, and overall performing. This is one heck of a production and not to be missed!
Jesus Christ Superstar is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, as seen through the eyes of Judas.
Faith Jones, who is making her national tour debut in this production, is best known for her credits in The Last Five Years, Fun Home, and The Wild Party.
The 2017 Olivier Award-winning production also pays tribute to the original album recording that was awarded the 1971 Billboard Album of the Year and includes the iconic and still-popular songs ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Gethsemane, and Superstar.
“It has been over a decade since this phenomenal musical – the Hamilton of its generation, that changed the Broadway landscape – has visited our Campus,” said Frances Egler, the Vice President of Theatrical Programming and Presentations on the Kimmel Cultural Campus.
“Based around the life of Christ but reflecting modern-day issues,” she added, “this 50th Anniversary production and renowned rock-opera score appeals to both theater fans and concert and music aficionados.”
The highly-talented ensemble includes Ethan Hardy Benson, Joshua Bess, Jordan Wesley Brown, Jahlil M. Burke, Cooper Clack, Kalei Cotecson, Emma Cook, Lydia Eku, Savannah Fisher, Domanick Anton Hubbard, Haley Huelsman, Jeremy Makana Hurr, Brett Hennessey Jones, Lena Matthews, Hosea Mundi, L’Oreal Roache, Colin Robertson, Darren James Robinson, Erich W. Schleck, and Lauren Soto.
Featuring lyrics and music by Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winners Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the North American tour of this iconic musical is helmed by acclaimed director Timothy Sheader and cutting-edge choreographer Drew McOnie.
Read on for more about the current North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, why Faith Jones appreciates the show and her character, and why we must come and see it for ourselves.
Faith, are you a touring veteran or new to this world?
Faith Jones: This tour started in 2019 with a different cast, and this is my first tour. We started rehearsals in September and hit the road in October.
What do you enjoy? What are the downsides?
Faith Jones: The best part is that being from North Carolina I am getting to see the middle of the country for the first time. I have a sister who lives in California and I knew the east coast. But to be able to see the vastness of America and to make some great connections with people in the cast has resulted in having new lifelong friends. We have made deep, meaningful connections. The tough part is trying to stay in touch with friends and family and packing my bags A LOT. But the rewarding stuff definitely outweighs the bad.
Are you familiar with Philadelphia?
Faith Jones: I have only driven through on our way to New Haven and saw a little bit of downtown. I am excited to get to know more about Philadelphia. Several cast members went to school there and are ready and eager to be our tour guides
Talk about the 50-year legacy of the show.
Faith Jones: First of all, the material is not that easy. It is extremely intense. The show, the material, and what we are doing in the show speaks to the long legacy; the music is so timeless. There have been many incredible productions, including the live 2022 NBC production with John Legend, Sara Barillas, and Brandon Victor Dixon. [The live televised performance of this epic work attracted over 9.6 million viewers, earned the highest ratings in its time period, and received the highest critical praise.]
That production alone shows how timeless the show is and when new people perform the music and the show it illuminates something new. I believe that we also get to see so much of humanity through that story. Obviously, it’s a familiar story – people from all walks of life come together –people who love each, take risks, and ultimately a story about love and how they navigate love as they try to protect each other.
Please talk about your love for singing – on and off the stage.
Faith Jones: I grew up in a musical family. My parents met in a band in the 90s. Dad plays keys, my mom is a singer and my siblings sing. My dad is also a chorus teacher, who had a background in music. When I was in high school I got interested in musical theater and started taking voice lessons.
But that was not your first path.
Faith Jones: I was going to study political science and make policy, but in college, I added music and dropped poly-sci. wanted to get to know my voice more. I enjoyed performing and it was about following the music that fulfilled me and gave me deep enjoyment. The University of North Carolina gave me a classical background and training and I became involved in student musicals, regional theater musicals, jazz, and church choirs, and I wanted to sing in any context that I could. I love all the different types of singing. All this was my way of trying to perform.
What is the dream of your career versus the reality?
Faith Jones: When I was younger, this felt so big and inaccessible. In Durham North Carolina, I saw some awesome touring productions. It felt so big and out of my grasp. People would come to visit our school and talk about their touring or Broadway actor.
My sister took us to touristy spots and it felt so big and distant standing in Times Square – the community of Broadway and theater actors feels so small. Those goals of performing on Broadway don’t feel as big. It feels this wasn’t so far-fetched – to write these dreams down in my journal. Cool to see this is a really cool job and it can take me so many places. Performing across the country and I can pursue other art – really see this is one aspect of my creative life that I am fulfilling. I see that I can do this job and it can inform other artists and this is something I didn’t anticipate.
What advice do you have for prospective actors and performers?
Faith Jones: I would say to keep going on the path you are on. Keep doing things that fulfill you and that you are interested in. There will be people there to lift you up. Keep practicing. Be a well-informed artist and a good person and hopefully, this could easily happen for you.
How do you approach Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar?
Faith Jones: I think about what would I do as Faith. How can I show them love, and compassion and keep the peace? This has taken some of the pressure off of playing such a big historical figure. What I have been trying to do in this production – and all of my research – is to have so much care for Jesus and in our production she has just as much care for Judas, leading with care and trying to make the best of chaotic situations. I ponder what are the commonalities, how can I relate to them and how can I bring them out.
What are some of your favorite songs in the show?
Faith Jones: One is, Everything’s All Right because it’s a great introduction to the character. It feels like such a solid intro to who Mary is. I have also grown to love Could We Start Again Please. In the beginning, it almost felt like an empty statement, but what I realized about that song is that I have been able to see it is a prayer for more time and a true restart. It’s about asking yourself — what would we do things differently? And it has grown on me. In life there are so many times you come to moments or turning points could we have more time and how could that inform where we are now? There are times I wish I could go back and be more informed about who I was as a person. I find it to be the most honest, human song in the show.
What are the reasons that you would like to encourage people to see the show for the first time or for the 20th?
Faith Jones: You will walk away with something new even if you have listened to the music or seen the movie many times. It is 90 minutes with no intermission, so I see it as an intense viewing experience. Som come to learn something new about the show. It is fast-paced, and a very human production. What we’ve done with it has brought it back to basics. If you’ve never seen it, then you know it is a classic piece of musical theater and music and has existed for 50 years. Come to experience it for pure entertainment.
Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-893-1999 or online at www.kimmelculturalcampus.org. In-person ticket sales can be conducted daily from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the Academy of Music Box Office, located at 240 S. Broad Street. See www.kimmelculturalcampus.org for more information
For additional information about this production, please visit ustour.JesusChristSuperstar.com
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