Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus Christ Superstar rehearses on the front porch of a Maitland Law Firm.

Sylvia Katherine Viles is directing Jesus Christ Superstar. I met Sylvia at a casting call for the Petrified Forest this last year. She insisted I get in costume and get ghoulish make up so that I blended in with the cast. As I arrivedat the Jesus Christ Superstar rehearsal, the cast was on the porch stretching. Sylvia was her warm bubbly self and gave me a warm hug. She explained that, "JCS has been a bucket list show since I was a child. Since my singing voice and gender have combined forces against me and the role of Judas will alas never be mine, directing the show is my dream come true. Add to the mix being able to do it at Bay Street Players, my home theater and the excitement is literally bursting out of me.  For you younger performers this was my "RENT" or "Spring Awakening", "BARE" etc., it was a show that spoke to me. It still speaks today." As a child Sylvia grew up loving this show. Judas is portrayed as a caring person Who tried to save Jesus. It is a roll reversal similar to what you see in "Wicked".

The cast was going to practice choreography on the steps to the porch. The final set will have a series of ascending steps so this was a perfect opportunity. They usually rehearse inside the building but there was some sort of open house going on.  Jesus was late. He thought the rehearsal was at 3pm. They needed to rehearse a musical number called "what's the buzz". Sylvia stepped in for Jesus and descended the steps as the cast knelt down beside her. Her shirt said "Bite me" on one of those candied hearts. She improvised her lines about how great her dad was and then the cast danced, doing hand slaps and then circling Jesus singing and clapping. Steven Johnson (aka Tim Gunn) did the choreography. New movements were worked in with each run through of the scene. A car leaving the parking lot broke up the action. I shouted "Car on stage!" and everyone scrambled up the steps to get out of the way. I think they should leave the car in the final stage production.

The cast then broke into groups and sang "When will we ride into Jerusalem?"  "What's the buzz, tell me whats a happening." They sang to each other as they sought gossip. The final run through was flawless and they cheered for having nailed down the blocking while maintaining spontaneity. The Sun had burst through the the trees heating up the porch steps, so Sylvia called a break and the next guerrilla rehearsal spot was on the driveway beside the house in the shade. I stayed behind and finished putting washes on the sketch. It was a gorgeous house and a beautiful, if hot day. I saw on a Facebook post later in the week a group photo of the cast that said, "The Cast of Jesus Christ Superstar doesn't sweat, we sparkle!" You have to love such youthful exuberance. I'm a bit sad that I can't see the final production because in a week ill be in Istanbul in Turkey which is a Middle Eastern country much like where these gospel stories first began.

Mark Your Calendars! Jesus Christ Superstar with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice will be performed at Bay Street Players (109 North Bay Street Eustis, FL)  from April 10 to May 3, 2015. Get your tickets now.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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