Like many people familiar with music from the 1970s, the folks at the Alpine Theatre Project in Whitefish love the many memorable songs from the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
They wanted to bring the music they adore so much to the stage in a performance of the musical for the Flathead Valley this month, but almost didn’t get permission from the powers that be to run the musical on stage.
“The company that licenses the show told us there’s a national tour going out very shortly, and usually when that happens they restrict the rights on all performances,” Luke Walrath of ATP said. “We weren’t granted the rights until about three weeks ago.”
And all in a rush, the Flathead learned ATP would indeed perform “Jesus Christ Superstar,” on March 8-10 at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.
It’s the kind of show that requires little introduction to those who have seen and sung along with it over the years, Walrath said, so it was imperative to build the proper cast and musical crew to make sure the production does justice to the musical.
Starring in the show will be Mike Eldred as Judas Iscariot; Eric Michael Krop as Jesus of Nazareth; Amelia Cormack as Mary Magdalene; Walrath as Pontius Pilate; Nick Spear as Herod; DeWitt Fleming Jr. as Simon Zealotes; and Dan Sharkey as Caiaphas. Other local musicians participating include Halladay Quist, Tabitha Spencer, Jami James, and Nick Brester.
The rock band will consist of Erica Von Kleist and the MAC Band, Ross Bridgeman, Zac Fawcett, Rebecca Nelson, Jeremy Quick, Jeremy Reinbolt, and Matt Seymour.
“It’s as if everybody grew up with this album and loves this show,” Walrath said. “My parents had it in the house; this was just music we all knew.”
Hits from the 1971 production include “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” “Everything’s Alright,” “Superstar,” “Gethsemane,” and “This Jesus Must Die,” with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice.
Though it premiered on the Broadway stage in 1971, “Jesus Christ Superstar” initially began in 1970 as a concept album loosely based on the biblical Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ’s final week of life before he was executed through crucifixion. In 1973, the movie version of the musical earned $24.5 million at the box office, and the play itself has been on stages throughout the world for decades.
Walrath said the crew at ATP started planning for this show last November, but due to the close call with licensing, had less than a month to promote the show.
“[They were going to restrict our usage due to the tour], but we petitioned them and said, ‘Look, we’re in Whitefish, Montana and it’s not going to affect your business,’” Walrath said.
The vision from creative director Betsi Morrison is to pair up local Broadway-level talent with the skilled rock musicians in the valley as a way to showcase an audience favorite through the different facets of talent in the valley.
“Because the score is so big and iconic, in order to get our hands around the whole thing, she really wanted to reach out to a bunch of different groups,” Walrath said.
The show will also integrate high school students from ATP’s theater classes, as well as a children’s choir of about 25 kids. Overall, audiences will hear the music they know and love performed well, Walrath said, by people who also truly appreciate the music.
“We’ve wanted to do ‘Superstar’ for years. This is an album that a lot of us just grew up with; it’s just kind of part of what we know. So to be able to perform it, it’s just really cool,” Walrath said.
For ticketing and schedule information, visit www.atpwhitefish.org/upcoming/2019/superstar.