Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Jesus Christ Superstar' Team Not Surprised by Closing, Citing Stiff Competition

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

'Jesus Christ Superstar' Team Not Surprised by Closing, Citing Stiff Competition

Article excerpt

Broadway 'JCS' team not shocked by closing


TORONTO - It will be a bittersweet Canada Day for the largely Canuck cast of "Jesus Christ Superstar" on Broadway.

As Canadians belt out the national anthem during July 1 festivities, those in "JCS" will be singing the show's tunes for the final time on the Great White Way, marking the untimely end of the New York run of the show that has evoked a sense of homegrown pride amongst cast and fans.

"I think we had hoped that we would be able to get deeper into the summer and that we would really take flight, which may have been the case," said Des McAnuff, the show's Tony Award-winning director who hopes to one day do a tour of the show.

"But of course, if you're having weeks that are costing money eventually it just becomes very difficult to sustain."

McAnuff's production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera was an instant hit when it debuted last summer at Ontario's Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where he's marking his final year as artistic director.

Critics and audiences on this side of the border had high praise for the show that tells the secular story of Jesus. Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice also praised it and many observers felt it was just a matter of time before it would wind up on Broadway.

That time came on March 1, when "JCS" began previews on Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre after a run at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse.

For many cast members it was "a dream come true" as it was their first time performing on Broadway, said New Brunswick-born Chilina Kennedy, who plays Mary Magdalene alongside Paul Nolan as Jesus. Some, like Ontario-raised Aaron Walpole, even subletted apartments there through the winter thinking the show might last until then.

But "JCS" has faced stiff competition from dozens of shows playing on Broadway at the same time, including McAnuff's smash "Jersey Boys," and critical reviews there have been mixed.

Given such obstacles, McAnuff said he wasn't surprised when producers recently announced that "JCS" would be closing on July 1 "unless business improved," which it did, but obviously not enough to keep it open.

"It's not like these things ever come out of the blue. It's been very challenging ... on Broadway," said the theatre impresario, noting about 13 shows are closing on Broadway around the same time.

"I think when we opened, there were 40 shows on Broadway. I can never remember, in my whole career, 40 shows playing at the same time on Broadway."

The cast wasn't surprised either.

"It's a much tougher market in New York and it's a tough time of year," Kennedy said by phone from her New York apartment.

"We're competing with a whole bunch of other shows for people, for audience, and there's just so many of us and so few tourists at this time of year."

Of course, everyone involved with the show is saddened and disappointed, added Kennedy. …

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