Spin on Superstar

By Steven Libowitz   |   April 9, 2024

What’s the buzz? A revolutionary rock musical presented in a revolutionary reinvention in the latest production from Out of the Box Theatre Company; which normally focuses on alternative/contemporary musicals. 

Jesus Christ Superstar, the sung-through rock opus musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that stunned Broadway in 1971, juggles the gender in the tale that delves into the personal relationships, psychology, and struggles of the last week of Jesus Christ’s life. OOB employs an all-female and nonbinary cast of 18 – including Miriam Dance as Jesus, Renee Cohen as Judas, Lois Mahalia as Pontius Pilate, and drag queen Vivian Storm as King Herod – to share the musical story loosely based on the Gospels’ accounts of the Passion; one that examines the cult of celebrity, and an individual becoming bigger than the message.

While JCS is a staple of regional and high school theaters, when OOB mounts the show at Center Stage April 5-14, it will be the first time such a production has been offered in town. 

“I grew up listening to the cast recording, and I would be belting along with Judas in my kitchen when I was eight,” said director and OOB founder Samantha Eve, who will also portray Mary Magdalene. “The songs ‘Heaven on their Minds,’ ‘Superstar, ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him,’ and ‘Gethsemane’ are brilliant rock musical numbers that send chills up my spine. I loved the idea of giving women and non-binary performers the opportunity to sing these incredible songs.” 

The shift in sexes also provides a more-than-subtle shift in perspective, Eve said.

“Just having women on stage as Jesus and Judas changes the way that you interpret some of the decisions the characters make,” she said. “It shifts your thinking in small ways, maybe even who and how much you blame.”

Eve had her own personal experience when she saw one of the rare similar productions in San Francisco, she said.

“It felt a lot more relevant to me and I was able to see more of myself rather than just a show that feels a little dated to me. I felt like I connected to it in a different way. And the idea of a small group of people fighting for equal rights going up against a larger group for political control has a lot of themes that strike at a relevant place in 2024.”

Eve is also expecting to not only entertain but jar the audience a little bit, something nearly all of OOB’s shows aim for, although JCS still sparks controversy 53 years after its premiere. She reported that there have been a few “aggressive” messages on its Facebook page.

“If people are so triggered by the idea of a woman playing Jesus, I think they have to really sit with that and figure out why, because there’s something going on there,” she said.


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