Locals modernize Broadway rock opera

Hudson County residents star in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

A local community theatre group promises that their modernized take on “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be unlike any other performance when it premieres at the end of this month.
When “Superstar” first was released as an album and then a musical on Broadway in the 1970s, it was considered controversial because Jesus was shown through the eyes of Judas, the traitor.
Now the Old Library Theatre, a Bergen County group, has a 30-person cast ready to tackle the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice rock opera. Guttenberg resident Alex Perez, who is High Tech High School’s musical theatre director, is directing the production.
Residents of Bayonne, Union City, North Bergen and Jersey City are among those who will star.
“It just so happened that Hudson County is spawning some great talent,” said Perez, who explained that around 60 percent of the cast is from Hudson County.


“A lot of people have heard about ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ before, but this is something on a whole new level.” – Dylan Finnerty,

Union City Perez and his cast said they are giving the classic more edge, setting it in a post-apocalyptic world that is reminiscent of turmoil and taboos around the world, “from gay issues to social issues to Afghanistan.
Jesus’ disciples, who were portrayed as hippies in the first production, are more influenced by punk and grunge now.
Perez said that over the years, many revivals have “homogenized” their interpretations, which was never its creators’ intention.
“[Jesus has] always been this grandiose, more than human figure, and I think in this production we’re bringing him back to Earth a little bit more and giving him more humanity, more flaws, like we all have,” said Jose Candelaria, a Bayonne resident who also was an American Idol Season Seven finalist.

Pushing boundaries

Candelaria said that while has been working as a professional actor and singer for the last two years, he was drawn back to local community theatre because of Perez’s reputation of pushing boundaries as an artist. He said that what they have created as a group is equal to any professional work he has ever done.
Brendan Joel Bartlett acts as Judas. He said in their portrayal, Judas and Mary both become fanatic about Jesus, but in the end he winds up seeing Jesus as “more fictitious,” seeing what the disciples believe are acts of divinity more as “parlor tricks.”
The costumes will push limits, as well as the lighting, which “will make the black box feel like a Bon Jovi concert, said Perez. As chorographer he has also incorporated modern dance.
Jersey City resident Ben Ciordia said that their version breathes new life into the musical.
“The modern day just presents it not as history, it’s presenting it as something that’s happening…especially in our culture today, when we have such short attention spans,” said Ciordia

Musical premiers in two weeks

Susan Anfora said that “theatre is an experience like no other,” which is why locals should make it to their performance. Candelaria agreed, adding that local theatre groups allow young students and seasoned actors to have a place to learn and hone in on their talents.
“A lot of people have heard about ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ before, but this is something on a whole new level,” said Union City resident Dylan Finnerty, who acts as an Apostle.
From July 30 to Aug. 8, Performances will be held at the George Frey Performing Arts Center in Fair Lawn on Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20.
For tickets visit www.theatremania.com or call 1-816-811-4111. For more information, visit www.oldlibrarytheatre.net.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.

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