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Friday, September 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A&E >  Stage

Big voices and modern themes in Lake City Playhouse’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

By Tyler Wilson For The Spokesman-Review

Some shows cannot be contained.

Even on the intimate stage of the Lake City Playhouse, the power of “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be seen and heard in all its glory.

“We’ve got a lot of huge voices,” said Abbey Crawford, who plays Mary Magdalene in the musical. “It’s like the rock star ‘Superstar’ cast. We’ve got some of the best voices and actors in the area.”

“Superstar,” the landmark 1970 rock opera from composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Lake City Playhouse in Coeur d’Alene. The production, directed by Troy Nickerson, features a stacked lineup of familiar Northwest actors, including Crawford, Robby French as Jesus and Jadd Davis as Judas.

Davis, who also serves as artistic director at Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre across town, seized the opportunity to perform in one of his favorite musicals.

“It’s a very fascinating exploration of the Christ story,” Davis said. “There’s a strong sense of immediacy to it.”

“Superstar” tells the Crucifixion story exclusively through music and focuses on the relationship between Jesus and Judas.

“A lot of times Judas is just played as the bad guy, a traitor,” Nickerson said. “There is a definite love between them. A definite bond. He’s more afraid for these people and for Jesus.”

Nickerson said that while the religious controversy surrounding “Superstar” has faded somewhat over the years, its social relevance only continues to grow stronger.

“Many of the themes in the politics are very relatable to the current day,” he said. “It’s even a bit about how we treat celebrities. How idolize and worship them, and then we throw them away.”

Crawford said the show parallels some of the conflicts between modern day social classes.

“It’s horrifying to think about what humans do to each other, and ultimately it comes down to, ‘What can we as humans do to support each other?’ ” Crawford said. “It’s a story of the human condition, where one man was willing to stand up.”

Rather than the expected biblical staging and costuming, the Playhouse production will employ a post-apocalyptic feel in some design elements. Set designer Jeremy Whittington worked to create more run-down settings for the action, like loading docks and sewers.

“Jeremy has really created a nice sense of environment,” Davis said. “It’s not going to feel like a tiny little theater.”

Crawford said the Playhouse stage adds an intimacy to the bombastic soundtrack.

“It will be a very fantastic feeling where you actually feel like you’re a part of the show,” Crawford said. “You’re right in the middle of it.”

Nickerson said a four-piece combo of piano, drum and electric guitars will keep the core, iconic compositions of the rock opera intact.

“We’re moving the tempos a bit more, just a little bit more of a modern sound,” Nickerson said. “There’s even a bit of a hip-hop vibe to it.”

In a bit of happy coincidence, the show’s four-week run will include a performance on Easter Sunday. Nickerson hopes the show’s compelling portrayal of the Crucifixion will attract audiences of all denominations.

“People who have those beliefs will be very touched, as well as people who aren’t necessarily religious,” Nickerson said. “It’s a very moving piece of theater.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” stars French, Davis, Crawford, Patrick McHenry-Kroetch, Diana Trotter, Jace Fogleman and more, with direction and choreography by Nickerson and musical direction by Chris Beazer and Henry McNulty.

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