'Jesus Christ Superstar' play to open

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            MURFREESBORO – Jesus Christ Superstar, one of the most anticipated shows staged by The Center for the Arts, opens on Friday, March 8, and will run through Easter Sunday.

             The musical, directed by award-winning stage veteran Renee Robinson and starring MTSU student John David Welch in the title role, will be featured for four weekends. Shows are set for Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

             The show has been a labor of love for Robinson, whose credits as a director includes the Center’s recent productions of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “The Color Purple.” Robinson said she has wanted to direct Superstar since the age of 17.

             “I’m very excited to get the chance to do this, Robinson said. “It has been one of my dream shows to direct.”

             Based on the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, the show is drawn from the Gospels’ accounts of the week leading to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Robinson said her goal is to make the Murfreesboro production uplifting and respectful.

             “Strength is the one thing I wan to audience to see,” Robinson said. “Jesus is very steady because, in the beginning, he knows exactly where he’s going to go and where he’s going to be.”

 The surprise of the Murfreesboro production, she said, will be the resurrection, which was not in the musical’s original script.

 I wanted to add that to revitalize the audience,” Robinson said. “It’s such a tragic ending that I wanted to give it one more punch. The way we’ve got this ended, I think, there’s no way to be anything but excited and happy.”

             Welch, a student at MTSU’s School of Music, portrays Jesus and serves as the production’s music director. “Playing Jesus is extremely intimidating but also kind of a dream,” he said. “It’s the most vocally challenging role ever. This story line is one everyone knows. It’s a really important story, and you really have to nail it.”

             Jimmy Saiz, a product of Belmont University’s commercial music program, fills the role of Judas. “I think the thing that I like about him is that he is very complex,” he said. “He has this inner turmoil, this inner demon, that he’s really struggling with. I’m excited to try to bring that to the table.”

             Natalie Klein, who studied theater and dance at Cumberland University, plays Mary Magdalene and is the production’s choreographer. “I think Mary is really cool because, in the Bible, we don’t know a lot about Mary,” she said. “And it’s cool to have a musical that expands upon her character.”

             Video previews, along with interviews with the cast, can be found on the Murfreesboro production’s YouTube channel, www.YouTube.com/JCintheBoro, and its Facebook page, “Jesus Christ Superstar in Murfreesboro.”

             The show also has its own Twitter feed, @JCintheBoro, and has been posting news, notes, photos and videos throughout its rehearsals, said Andrew Oppmann, the show’s producer.

             “We’ve embraced social media like no other production before at the Center,” he said. “We wanted people to watch the production being developed and build anticipation of what we will bring to the Murfreesboro stage.”

 Tickets can be purchased at the Center’s box office at 110 W. College St. in Murfreesboro or by calling the Center at 615-904-2787. Prices are $15 for adults; $13 for seniors (60 and older), students (ages 12 to 18 or with valid student ID and military; and $11 for children under 12. Group seating options and discounts are available.

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