‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ gets second chance

Rock opera opens Friday, with nine performances to follow

SEQUIM — Ghostlight Productions was several weeks into the pre-production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” when public gathering came to a halt in March 2020.

“Not being able to premiere the show when we were only a month out was devastating,” Anna Pederson said.

After four years and change, however, the iconic production is back as the cornerstone of the company’s summer.

Under Pederson’s direction and choreography, Ghostlight Productions will bring Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s legendary rock opera to the stage this month.

The show runs with an opening night special on Friday, then for nine more performances through July 27.

All performances will take place at the Sequim High School Auditorium, 533 N. Sequim Ave.

Tickets are $14 to $20 and are available at glp.ludus.com/index.php.

Originally a 1970 concept record, “Jesus Christ Superstar” soon saw great success both on Broadway and beyond. The narrative follows the last week of Jesus’ life as he goes through a series of trials leading up to his crucifixion.

Song by song, the audience is presented with different perspectives from the characters most closely surrounding Jesus.

Highly stylized, the production finds its voice in a very late 1960s/early 1970s aesthetic, both sonically and visually. Music ranges from unleashed psychedelic rock to heavy funk bass lines to more orchestral rock, with lead singers letting loose in vocalization from the revolutionary era.

Reviving the production

When Ghostlight Production’s efforts were halted, Pederson was a younger director. The loss of producing the show was large and, after a period of holding optimism, the director and her husband Jeremy — who portrays Jesus in the upcoming show — lost their home in Port Angeles and were forced to relocate to Poulsbo. There, Anna’s directors notebook, full of scene notes, was set to the side and gathered dust.

When she returned to the work, Pederson was unsure if the moment had passed and if the same energy would infuse the project as when they had left four years earlier. That fear was quelled at the first rehearsal, she said.

In addition to further development in her personal interpretation of the work, Pederson’s directing experience has multiplied in the interim.

She’s the operetta director for Sequim High School and has staged five plays and musicals with them in the past year alone.

“I feel so much more confident and experienced as a director,” she said.

Music director John Lorentzen first learned much of the score for “Jesus Christ Superstar” on piano in the 1970s. He said he is excited to revisit the material now, noting particularly the vocals of the cast.

“The cast is doing an amazing job,” he said. “I think the audiences will be surprised and amazed at how well they’re capturing the feel and intent of the original ‘rock opera.’”

Lorentzen’s son Mark, Ghostlight Production’s creative director, stars as Judas. Playing Judas means he gets a chance to let his vocal chops shine.

“This show has some of the most challenging vocal roles in the entire musical theatre canon,” Mark Lorentzen said. “It’s an actor’s dream. For me, personally, Judas is written to have a constant intensity and the role lives in a stratospheric range nearly the entire show.”

Shahida Shahrir Mellon plays the key role of Mary Magdalene. The play features a nearly constantly active cast of actors, singers and dancers.

“I love how dance heavy this show is,” Peterson said. “The movement in this show is very human. I see the people of this time as being in constant motion. Jesus’ disciples were ready to move.”

For more about Ghostlight Productions, visit ghostlightwa.org.

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Elijah Sussman is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him by email at elijah.sussman@sequimgazette.com.

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