Would Jesus be different if he were walking the Earth now?
“What we’ve found is that the world may have changed, but even with all the technology we have today, people haven’t changed,” says Celeste Veillon, who plays Mary Magdalene. “People are still attracted to a mob mentality. We’ve seen it through the years.”
But would Jesus be able to stay on message in an age obsessed with selfies, social media and reality television?
“Jesus would still bring his message to the people, and they would still flock to him,” director Chris Adams says. “But the real question is how would we treat Jesus today? Think about it. We’re in the middle of the political season. He’d be treated like a star.”
There’s a point in the show where cast members will pose for selfies with Jason Duplessis, who plays Jesus. They’ll also live-tweet the photos, along with messages using the hashtag #ACTlikeJC during the performances.
It all takes place on a set of simple scaffolding that enables cast members to hide in plain sight.
“It’s transparent,” Adams explains. “‘Because no matter what, God can see you. My vision for this was like a live television feed, which could be very possible if Jesus was here today.”
The Pharisees and high priests will be portrayed as businessmen and Wall Street bankers, and the 12 apostles will include women.
The question remains: What would Jesus do?
“This story takes place in the last week of Jesus’ life,” Adams says. “It begins on Palm Sunday and ends the day he is crucified. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect for our production, because we close on Palm Sunday.”
“Jesus Christ Superstar” was billed as a rock opera when it premiered on Broadway in 1971. The story is performed in song with no dialogue and focuses on the relationship between Jesus and Judas as it is seen through Judas’ eyes.
“Judas knows Jesus’ mission, and he knows he’s going to betray Jesus,” says Dane Thibodeaux, who plays Judas. “At one point, he tells Jesus that he can’t do it, but Jesus tells Judas that he has to betray him in order for the mission to be completed.”
But Judas is troubled. Jesus tells him it’s OK, that he’ll be forgiven, but Judas asks, “What if you don’t have to do this?”
“It humanizes Jesus,” says Adams, who also plays King Herod, who is more of a master of ceremonies than a king in this story.
“He belongs, yet he doesn’t belong,’ Adams says.
Think Stanley Tucci’s Ceasar Flickerman character in “The Hunger Games” wearing a pink sequined suit. That’s Adams’ Herod.
Still, cast members aren’t taking their roles lightly.
“It’s a huge responsibility to play Jesus,” Duplessis says. “It was overwhelming at first, but then I started to relax when I got on stage. There’s a scene where Jesus is having fun — he’s calm, relaxed and dancing with the people. It’s joyous.”
And the people respond to his accessibility.
“I think he’s that way in the Bible, too,” Veillon says. “I think he was joyous and had a good sense of humor. And I don’t think people are different. We may be advanced, but our emotions and spirituality are the same, and if Christ came today, we’d do the same thing.”