BWW Interviews: Josh Young - JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR's 'Judas'
Broadway's newest Jesus Christ Superstar cast will feature Paul Nolan, Josh Young and Chilina Kennedy reprising their roles as Jesus Christ, Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene, respectively. Tom Hewitt will take on the role of Pontius Pilate, with Bruce Dow as King Herod, Marcus Nance as Caiaphas and Aaron Walpole as Annas.
Josh Young's theatrical training began at the age of twelve with Media Theatre, and he began studying voice at the Voice Foundation of Philadelphia. As he grew, he continued to train and perform at Upper Darby Summer Stage and Young People's Theatre Workshop (YPTW) at The Player's Club of Swarthmore. Towards the end of Young's high school career, he gained acceptance to the prestigious Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts in Voice in Drama.
I had the pleasure of seeing Josh Young perform twice as Marius, once with the 3rd National tour of LES MISERABLES and more recently with the Walnut Street Theater's production of that show as well as Link Larkin in Walnut’s HAIRSPRAY.
Young's theater credits include: (Link Larkin) HAIRSPRAY (2008), Marius LES MISERABLES WST (2008), and the 3rd Nat'l tour (2004), A LITTLE NIGH MUSIC (Henrik) 2008, WEST SIDE STORY (Tony) 2005-06 tour, Titanic (Barrett) 2001, HAIR (Claude) 2001, Jamie in THE LAST FIVE YEARS, Brad in TTHE roCKY HORROR SHOW, Dodger in OLIVER!, Don in A CHORUS LINE.
I recently caught up with Josh to get some insight into the show and his character in one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s oldest and most popular rock musicals.
PB: This production is getting rave reviews. In your opinion what are some of the highlights about the show?
JY: The highlight of our production is the storytelling. JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is, essentially, the gospel according to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice. They took what they felt were the most dramatically interesting and cohesive aspects of The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and set Mr. Rice's contemporarily interpreted lyrics to the most exciting rock music in musical theater history. Des McAnuff has gone one step further by incorporating actors from one of the finest Shakespeare companies in the world, The Stratford Shakespeare Festival. He has an incomparable understanding of what engages, teaches and moves an audience. We have the most incredible lighting, video, set, music and sound designers also working with the direct mission of telling this re-imagined interpretation of arguably "the greatest story ever told." We also use aspects of some of the lost gospels in our interpretation of the work; those of Mary and the recently unearthed and translated gospel according to Judas being featured to explore some new and exciting drama. This all culminates in a fresh angle to the passion story that is totally clear and focused.
PB: What do you feel you are bringing to the role of Judas and how do you become that character?
JY: Well, I must bring something completely different. I only say that because I've had the good fortune of never seeing any production of JCS. I say good fortune because I had no preconceived ideas of who Judas was. My personal background also didn't expose me to any aspect of this story. I went in with a complete ignorance of the new testament and the Passion, determined to become an expert without giving preference or more attention, biblical or otherwise, to any one particular source of information.
However, Superstar has been my favorite score for as far back as I can remember. I love the melodies and the heightened stakes that are inherent in rock music, from the first few notes of JCS in particular. Having heard other interpretations, I can say that I am a new sound for Judas. I'm not Murray Head, Ben Vereen or Carl Anderson. I love each of their sounds but it was the moment when I resigned myself to my voice that I felt the character become my own.
One of my favorite acting teachers used the expression, "word paint", as a tool in deciphering a song. I "paint" with a totally different palate than those the previous vocalists. And the painting of Judas, to me, is that of a man with the deepest love for God imaginable and a desperate drive to keep his people (the Jewish people) safe. The feelings Judas has for Jesus and Mary; who they are to each other, who they are to him and the potential impact of Jesus’ words/actions ... is Judas loved by those he loves so deeply? These are the things tearing at his soul. Judas is a man of the greatest faith who, at the end of the day, wants very much to be loved... like anyone else.
PB: Tell us about Paul Nolan as Jesus, and Judas’s relationship with Jesus?
JY: Paul is amazing - a Shakespearian actor who happens to sing Jesus better than anyone I've ever heard. I would say that, in our production, Judas is Jesus’ closest friend and confidant. They love each other, deeply. I don't want to give away too much more.
PB: How does this production compare to the last Broadway Revival in 2000?
JY: I have recently seen the movie made of that production. Our production is about as different from that interpretation as the same show can be, while keeping the same characters and basic storyline. Musically we are far truer to the original concept recording. I’ll leave it to those who have seen each production to compare and contrast from there.
PB: Any favorite principal actors that have played in past Superstar productions that impressed you?
JY: I've watched You Tube videos of Drew Sarich singingGethsemane and what can I say? His vocal pyrotechnics are just insane! But again, I've never seen a stage production of the show before.