Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Superstar' Director Checks in on Tour in Pittsburgh

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'Superstar' Director Checks in on Tour in Pittsburgh

Article excerpt

Timothy Sheader, the British director of the "Jesus Christ Superstar" 50th anniversary tour, was in the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Downtown lobby before Saturday's matinee at the Benedum Center. It was his first time in Pittsburgh - he was blown away by the sight of Downtown as he came through the Fort Pitt Tunnel - and the first time he got to hold the 1970 album in his hands.

Diana Roth, the Trust's senior communications manager, handed him a pristine copy of the vinyl record and accompanying notes of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice collaboration that inspired Sheader's Olivier Award-winning production.

"It's exquisite, isn't it?" he said of the album cover, with its classic font and circular angel graphic on a brown background.

Leafing through the notes, he stopped at the credits page and told of the day that Webber and Rice came to see his production in 2016, at its place of origin, the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in London. Rice volunteered to give an impromptu speech for the audience.

"He said it was a tribute to them," Sheader said, realizing that Rice had recited the leading musicians' names from memory: Neil Hubbard, Henry McCullough, Chris Mercer, J. Peter Robinson, Bruce Rowland and Alan Spenner - all but Robinson were part of The Grease Band that had backed Joe Cocker, among other rock acts.

Sheader was in town to check on his show, the first time he has visited the tour since it opened in Austin, Texas, in October. He continues to tweak it, depending on the cast and other factors, after having moved it from an outdoor venue to a traveling show for North America's regional showcases.

Here's how Steve Daly, writing a 1996 Entertainment Weekly "time capsule," described the first coming of "Jesus Christ Superstar" to Pittsburgh:

"Was Jesus bigger than the Beatles? It certainly seemed so on July 12, 1971, as 13,000 fans packed Pittsburgh's Civic Arena to see Jesus in concert. …

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