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‘Edgy’ musical: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ revival ‘not like any other version’

Aaron LaVigne and Tommy Sherlock, along with the company of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” (Courtesy of Matthew Murphy)

Tim Sheader had a vision for “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

In 2017, London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production won the Olivier Award for best musical revival.

The musical is heading to the States for a nationwide tour. It makes a stop in Albuquerque from Thursday, Oct. 17 through Sunday, Oct. 20 at Popejoy Hall.

Sheader is at the helm of the traveling show, and he was doing tech rehearsals in Syracuse, N.Y., before opening in Austin, Texas.

“I’ve been directing plays, musicals and operas for 20 years,” Sheader says. “I’m always nervous on the first rehearsal. This is the fifth cast of the show, and there are plenty of new ideas. Some of them are quite big, and it’s a new set design.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ, as seen through the eyes of Judas.

Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” “Gethsemane” and “Superstar.”

The traveling show is directed by Sheader, while Drew McOnie is choreographing. Costumes are done by Tom Scutt, lighting by Lee Curran and music supervision by Tom Deering.

Sheader says the biggest obstacle was transforming the show to a movable production.

One other obstacle was casting.

“We had to find the right people,” Sheader says. “I’m based in London and couldn’t fly out just for auditions. We were lucky to find the cast. They bring something great to this edgy show.”

Cast as Jesus Christ is Aaron LaVigne.

LaVigne has been working with the production crew for five weeks.

“It’s a real honor,” he says of being cast as Jesus Christ. “The production isn’t traditional in the way it’s been presented in the past,” LaVigne says. “It’s very edgy, and it gets down to the story pretty quickly. The storytelling is not like any other version. It all goes back to the music. It’s based around the original concept album. It’s been very physical for me.”

LaVigne will be on tour for the next year and has begun a healthy regimen.

“I’ve become a saint and take care of my body, exercising and doing yoga,” he says. “Pretty much, it’s one of the most widely recognized characters in the world. I’m in for the ride.”

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