AURORA – What began as a 1970s rock opera concept album became a global stage phenomenon that captured seven Tony Award nominations and countless awards overseas in its 40-plus years.
Jesus Christ Superstar, the beloved rock opera that explores the story and internal struggles of the last seven days of the greatest idol in history – Jesus – is the 2016-17 Broadway Series finale, April 19-May 28, 2017 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora.
While thousands of productions have taken the stage in 31 countries, Paramount’s is surely the production the theater community in Chicago and around the country will be talking about.
We already know Jesus Christ Superstar features music by the most successful composer of our generation, Andrew Lloyd Webber, with indelible lyrics by Tim Rice. Hits include “Everything’s Alright,” “Heaven on Their Minds,” “Hosanna,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Superstar.”
With nationally recognized director and producer Ron Kellum making his Paramount debut with Jesus Christ Superstar, Chicago will be introduced to a director and choreographer whose experience ranges from being an artistic director of Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA to staging major sports spectacles such as last month’s 2017 NFL Pro Bowl halftime show.
Paramount veterans Tom Vendafreddo and Kory Danielson will collaborate as co-music directors in leading the cast and a 14-piece live rock band.
The A-list production design team includes Kevin Depinet, set design; Theresa Ham, costume design; Greg Hofmann, lighting design; Mike Tutaj, projection design; and Adam Rosenthal, sound design.
So what’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happenin’?
Paramount’s Jesus Christ Superstar will feature an all-black cast led by Broadway and regional musical theater veteran Destan Owens as Jesus of Nazareth. Owens’s Broadway credits include Tom Collins in Rent, Billy Flynn in Chicago, Adrian in Smokey Joe‘s Café and Hawker in The Who‘s Tommy 15th Anniversary Concert.
Principal cast members are Mykal Kilgore (Judas Iscariot), Felicia Boswell (Mary Magdalene), Rufus Bonds, Jr. (Pontius Pilate), Avionce Hoyles (King Herod/Annas) and Lorenzo Rush Jr. (Caiaphas).
The ensemble features (pictured above, top, from left) Stephen “Blu” Allen, Jos N. Banks, Ciera Dawn, Gilbert Domally, Candace C. Edwards, Jared D.M. Grant, Keirsten Hodgens, (row 2) Mark J.P. Hood, Reneisha Jenkins, Micheal Lovette, Evan Tyrone Martin, Gabriel Mudd, Brian Nelson Jr., Renellè Nicole, (row 3) Jaymes Osborne, Kafi Pierre, Jon Pierce, Travis Porchia, Camille Robinson, Alexis J. Roston and Jessica Brooke Seals.
“This is an incredible opportunity to unite the retelling of one of the greatest stories with an iconic piece of musical theater through the voices and lens of my community,” said Jesus Christ Superstar director Ron Kellum. “‘Why an all-black Superstar?’ ‘Why not.’ Our responsibility as storytellers is to find ways to represent truth in ways that translate to every audience no matter of color, creed, orientation or status. This will be a soul stirring experience!”
“Wait until you hear the voices singing in the grand finale of this season, presented for you in a powerful new production directed and choreographed by Ron Kellum!” said Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti. “I dare to say it speaks to the state of the art as intriguingly as it does to the state of the union! It is a contemporary thrill ride of a production with a cast as beautiful as the vision of its director!”
Jesus Christ Superstar: Dates, times and ticket information
Previews start April 19. Press opening is Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m. Performances run through May 28: Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Single tickets are $44 to $59. The Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, is surrounded by affordable parking and new restaurants for pre- or post-show dining.
For tickets, visit ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and two hours prior to evening performances.
Jesus Christ Superstar is rated PG.
About Jesus Christ Superstar
A rock star stands center stage, awash in lights while tens-of-thousands of adoring fans repeat every word he sings. An endless sea of bodies stands for hours shivering in the freezing temps just to say they were there when the new leader of the free world was sworn in. We love and celebrate our idols; we always have…that is, until we move on to our next idol.
Jesus Christ Superstar is not just the story of the last seven days of the greatest idol in history. It’s the story of the close friend who tried to save him and why that friend eventually betrayed him. It’s a story of love and fear, of kindness and greed, of expectations and what happens when those expectations are not met.
This is an energized rock opera that delves into the internal struggles of those mortals, those humans – including Jesus himself – as they drew closer to one of the most pivotal moments in history. It’s an emotionally-charged journey in which, in the end, each person discovers something about themselves when the stakes are at their highest.
Andrew Lloyd Webber is the most successful composer of musicals of his generation and also a breaker of molds for the type. His first collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice was Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a musical based on the Biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. The two soon hit on the idea of writing a musical based on the life of Jesus Christ from the point of view of Judas, and, like Joseph, imbued with a strong rock and roll influence. Unable to finance a stage version, Lloyd Webber and Rice did manage to record their show, and in 1970, the album Jesus Christ Superstar went on to sell millions all over the world. The musical version debuted on Broadway in 1971, earning 5 Tony nominations and a Drama Desk Award for Sondheim for “Most Promising Composer.” The 1973 film version remains a 1970s rock opera cult classic.
Behind the scenes: Paramount’s
Jesus Christ Superstar
Ron Kellum (director) is a seasoned director and producer with experience ranging from sports entertainment to theater, film and television. He serves as a senior producer for e2k, co-director for the NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii and co-producer for the NFL Pro Bowl United Way Thanksgiving Halftime Show. Kellum produced the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team Launch at Paramount Studios as well as several high-profile press and VIP events for Monster CES in Las Vegas. His directing and choreography credits included Iron Man 2 starring Robert Downey Jr. as well as the musicals Chicago, The Color Purple, A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, Rent, Once on This Island, 5 Guys Named Moe, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Smokey Joe’s Café. He appeared on Broadway in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Chicago, and he toured nationally in Aida, Dreamgirls, Fosse and Chicago. Learn more at ronkellum.com.
Tom Vendafreddo (co-music director and conductor) is helming his 12th consecutive musical at Paramount, preceded by In the Heights, Mary Poppins, The Who’s Tommy, Les Misérables (Jeff Nomination, Music Direction), Oklahoma! (Jeff Nomination, Music Direction), A Christmas Story – The Musical (Jeff Nomination, Music Direction), Hairspray – The Broadway Musical, West Side Story (Jeff Nomination, Music Direction), Mamma Mia!, Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Sweeney Todd-The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Other credits include Company and Sweet Charity (Writers Theatre); On the Town and Godspell (Marriott Lincolnshire); Road Show and Shrek: The Musical (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); The Spitfire Grill (BoHo Theatre – Jeff Nomination for Music Direction); and Pump Boys and Dinettes (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre). Regional credits include Rent (San Diego Musical Theatre), Odyssey (Old Globe Theatre), Forever Plaid (Chestnut Fine Arts) and It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Cygnet Theatre). As a cabaret artist, he has performed in Chicago, New York, San Diego and Melbourne. In 2014, he became the Founding Artistic Director of the Chicago Artists Chorale, a choral ensemble of working professionals in the Chicago theatre community. He received a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and Music Education from Eastman School of Music and a Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from San Diego State University. tomvendafreddo.com
Kory Danielson (co-music director and conductor) is coming back for his 10th consecutive musical at the Paramount, following Sweeney Todd-The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, West Side Story, Hairspray – The Broadway Musical, A Christmas Story – The Musical, Oklahoma!, Les Misérables and The Who’s Tommy. Other Chicago credits include Assassins, The Full Monty, Loving Repeating, Heathers, Tomorrow Morning (Kokandy Productions); Passion (2014 Jeff Award for Outstanding Music Direction), Smokey Joe’s Cafe (Theo Ubique); How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Porchlight Music Theatre); Hedwig, Wedding Singer (Haven Theatre); and Zanna, Don’t!, Lucky Stiff, Triumph of Love (The Music Theatre Company). Danielson has also worked with Drury Lane, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Bailiwick and Hell in a Handbag.
Paramount’s Jesus Christ Superstar production team also includes Trent Stork, associate director; Kafi Pierre, associate choreographer; Ethan Deppe, electronic music designer; Katie Cordts, wig, hair and makeup designer; Amanda Relaford, properties designer; R&D Choreography, Vic Bayona and Rick Gilbert, violence designers; Roger Ellis, dramaturg; Hannah Wichmann, stage manager; and Nora Mally, assistant stage manager.
Jesus Christ Superstar is sponsored by the Daily Herald. Paramount’s 2016-17 Broadway Series is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and The Dunham Fund. Broadway Series Orchestra Sponsor is Rush-Copley Medical Center. Broadway Series Lighting Sponsor is ComEd. Broadway Series Costume Sponsor is Gerald Kia. Jesus Christ Superstar is also sponsored by the Daily Herald.
More about Paramount’s 2016-17 Season
In addition to Paramount’s 2016-17 Broadway Series finale, Jesus Christ Superstar, Paramount’s season also includes Home Free (Mar. 24), Madeleine Peyroux and Rickie Lee Jones (Mar. 25), Golden Dragon Acrobats (Mar. 26),
Riverdance: 20 Years(Mar. 31-Apr. 2, five shows), Piano Men: A Tribute to Elton John and Billy Joel (Jun. 10, two shows) and Barbra and Frank: The Concert That Never Was… (Jun. 11). Back in 2016-17 is the Classic Movie Monday series, presenting everyone’s favorite flicks on a two-story screen for just $1. Paramount also serves the community with low-cost children’s shows designed to entertain while they educate: Miss Nelson is Missing (Mar. 22) and Laura Ingalls Wilder (Mar. 23).
For subscriptions, single tickets or more information, go to ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora