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April 20, 2023

'Jesus Christ Superstar' returns to Philly next month with local actor in titular role

The musical, starring University of the Arts grad Jack Hopewell, will run at Miller Theater from Tuesday, May 2, through Sunday, May 7

Arts & Culture Theater
jesus christ superstar philadelphia Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade

'Jesus Christ Superstar' returns to Philadelphia Tuesday, May 2 through Sunday, May 7, with University of the Arts graduate Jack Hopewell starring as Jesus.

A heavenly rock opera is making its way back to Philly for the first time in 14 years to retell a classic biblical story with plenty of modern twists and local flair.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" will stop at the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Miller Theater from Tuesday, May 2, through Sunday, May 7, as part of its 50th anniversary tour. Jack Hopewell, who graduated from the University of the Arts in 2022 with a BFA in musical theatre, stars as Jesus in the production.

"I'm really happy that we're getting to bring it to where I went to school and where most of my friends and loved ones are," Hopewell said. 

Hopewell, who is originally from Virginia, grew up jamming to the soundtrack of the musical. When the casting call for "a Jesus that could play guitar" went out, Hopewell was preparing for his UofArts graduation, but he still jumped at the chance to play his dream role.

"I said, 'Well, hey, I look like this role, it's one of my all time dream job roles and I play the guitar so this seems kind of perfect,'" Hopewell said. "So I auditioned, and after a ton of rounds of auditions back and forth to New York, here we are."

"My last audition was the week of graduation; it was a lot. It's kind of surreal, because it's a lot of emotions all at once. But I'm really fortunate. It was really awesome for me to be able to graduate right into this job." 

"Jesus Christ Superstar" follows the extraordinary final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ, but depicts the events through the eyes of Judas, the man known widely as Jesus' betrayer. The legendary soundtrack — full of fan-favorites like “Gethsemane,” "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and “Superstar”  features lyrics and music by EGOT winners Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Initially released as a concept album in 1970, "Jesus Christ Superstar" has remained successful through the decades, even spawning an Emmy-winning live NBC concert special last year starring John Legend that reeled in over 9.6 million viewers.

On the current tour, Hopewell is joined by Elvie Ellis as Judas, Faith Jones as Mary, Grant Hodges as Caiaphas, Nicholas Hambruch as Pontius Pilate and Temple graduate Kodiak Thompson as Annas.

jesus christ superstar judasEvan Zimmerman/MurphyMade

Elvie Ellis stars as Judas and Jack Hopewell stars as Jesus in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which will be at Philadelphia's Miller Theater from May 2 through May 7.

Along with mixing modern themes into the biblical tales of Jesus, this iteration of the musical also shines a more sympathetic light on Judas, whom Hopewell refers to as the "protagonist." The show also repositions Jesus to show more of his humanity.

"In this retelling, (Jesus) is a rock star, and he's a human," Hopewell said. "And he's, you know, Son of God and all of that, but at the same time, he is flawed, and he has hopes and dreams and fears and wants and needs. And so I think playing into that human aspect of him has been really pivotal for me, because I think a lot of people connect with the idea of Jesus; they just think of him as this perfect, godly figure. And when in actuality, you know, he was human as well. And in the show, it really brings up those moments ... That's just for me been the really cool part about this role, is taking such a well known figure, and trying to bring the humanity out."

Tickets for "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Philadelphia can be purchased in advance online.

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