Playhouse pulls a ‘super’ switcheroo


Light Staff

Des McAnuff is coming back to La Jolla — for one production.

The former artistic director of the La Jolla Playhouse, who is now the artistic director at the Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival, will bring its acclaimed production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” to the Mandell Weiss Theatre Nov. 18 through Dec.31.

The production, featuring lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, will replace “Finding Neverland,” which was to have been produced by Los Angeles-based Weinstein Live Entertainment.

“While our partner … elected not to go forward with the planned production at the Playhouse, it has given us the opportunity to share Des McAnuff’s stunning revival of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ with our audiences,” La Jolla Playhouse’s artistic director Christopher Ashley said in a press release. “We are absolutely overjoyed to welcome Des back home with his critically acclaimed production of this classic rock musical.”

It was unclear why Weinstein pulled out, and Ashley told the Union-Tribune that he didn’t know if “Finding Neverland” might be rescheduled.

McAnuff, who announced in June that he would leave the Ontario festival after the 2013 season, was not available for comment at press time.

In the La Jolla Playhouse press release, McAnuff said, “I am naturally thrilled by the prospect of this collaboration between our two great theaters. The pride I take in the magnificent work being done by our Festival artists in “Jesus Christ Superstar” is matched by my deep appreciation to La Jolla for giving us this wonderful opportunity to showcase that work to an audience of which I am very fond – an audience that, like Stratford’s, is accustomed to enjoying some of the finest theater in the world.” reported Tuesday that “rumors of a Broadway transfer” of “Superstar” could follow the La Jolla production, which will star the full Stratford cast. It features Paul Nolan as “Jesus,” Chilina Kennedy as “Mary Magdalene,” Josh Young as “Judas Iscariot,” Tony Award winner Brent Carver as “Pontius Pilate,” Bruce Dow as “King Herod” and Mike Nadajewski as “Peter.”

The rock opera, which La Jolla Playhouse notes, “reinvented musical theater for the modern age, tells the story of the last week of Christ’s life. The zeal with which Christ’s followers are hailing him as the Son of God becomes a source of dismay to his disciple Judas Iscariot. Fearing that this tide of religious fervor will provoke brutal repression by the occupying Romans, Judas must make his fateful choice between faith and betrayal.”

The Stratford Festival production has received rave reviews throughout Canada.

McAnuff was artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse from 1983 to 1994 and from 2001 to 2007 and is now director emeritus. He took the La Jolla productions of “Jersey Boys” and “Memphis” to Broadway, where both won Tony Awards.

Playhouse subscribers are being contacted regarding the programming change and will receive new tickets to “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the coming weeks. Subscribers may also purchase additional tickets beginning Aug. 1. Single tickets go on sale to the public on Aug. 28. Group sales begin Aug. 8.

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