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InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & More

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InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreToday we are talking to a supremely gifted performer who can be seen eight times a week on Broadway in the currently running Des McAnuff revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR - the very versatile Jeremy Kushnier. Tracing his Broadway trajectory from his memorable debut in FOOTLOOSE back in the late 1990s to his impressive regional theatre and concert work - CHESS to The Dream Engine to BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY and beyond - to his success touring the country in AIDA, RENT, NEXT TO NORMAL and others, Kushnier opens up about his diverse career thus far and what we can expect from him in the future, near and far. Plus, Kushnier analyzes the multiple roles he has essayed in the current production of SUPERSTAR so far, since, of course, he was first brought into the production primarily as a standby and understudy - and has played the parts of Jesus, Judas, Pilate and two different priests since - and shares his enthusiasm for the dazzling, Tony Award-nominated production; all of this as he prepares for his long-awaited upcoming solo spotlight concert at Birdland on June 18! Additionally, Kushnier shares plans and wishes for a forthcoming solo album, the possibility of future iterations of CHESS and BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY in New York, as well as offers his candid thoughts on GLEE, audiences, collaborators, directors, co-stars, expresses excitement over his new role as a dad - and much, much more!

More information on Jeremy Kushnier at Birdland on June 18 is available here.

Feeling Electric

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: Your work with The Dream Engine was stupendous, I thought - "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All", especially. It's a shame that project did not continue, but have you been involved with any of the BAT OUT OF HELL readings since?

JK: No, I haven't. With The Dream Engine, I think that when I got involved one side was for BAT and one side was the other side, and, so, I was part of the other side and that was that. We'll see. I mean, I don't know, I came in sort of as a hired guy more than anything, so, you know, I think that in a situation like that, whenever there are egos that big there is a lot of animosity.

PC: The concerts were certainly quite spectacular, in any event.

JK: They were. They were.

PC: Would you like to be a part of a future gig with the Dream Engine if there is one?

JK: Oh, absolutely - absolutely. I think it's been a little bit difficult over the last few years seeing where it is going, but, you know, starting anything from scratch is really hard!

PC: Did you get to try out any new material in rehearsals? There were a number of new songs premiered at those concerts.

JK: You know, I didn't - but, I did mostly back-ups anyway. As you know, we had Rob Evan, who was sort of like the lead act and the rest of us were sort of featured back-up singers more than anything, I think - which, of course, I was happy to do; to be singing that material. So, anyway, Rob ended up singing most of the new stuff.

PC: The new trio version of "Objects In The Rearview Mirror" you did with him and Elaine Caswell was phenomenal, I thought.

JK: Oh, yeah! Ugh, that stuff is just so fun to sing, you know? To go over the top like that - literally - was awesome in the best, best way.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: What was your audition for Jim Steinman himself like?

JK: Oh, I still remember it to this day! It was pretty hilarious - and amazing. I remember the very first time I sang "[Making Love] Out Of Nothing At All" for him, and, there he is, sitting there in his high tops and it was the guy, you know? So, he was on this couch and I remember I sang and I finished and then he sort of held his chin for a second and then he said - because I was doing all this rock n roll scream-y stuff at the end - "I f*cking hate that stuff man! Cut it out! I've just never understood that Bee Gees kind of high stuff." [Laughs.]

PC: What did you say?

JK: "OK!" [Laughs.] He's very straightforward and he doesn't want to hear any of your tricks. And, if you're not bleeding, he's not interested - and I really respect that.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: Two Jim Steinman songs were recently featured on GLEE, as well. What do you think of the new GLEE generation who embrace musical theatre and over-the-top sensibilities?

JK: Oh, GLEE and all that? I think it's great - really great. You know, I grew up as a fan of musical theatre and that was sort of before the age of the internet and sort of before all of this stuff became so easily accessible - and before when they started marking it more towards kids - so, I was always a musicals fan. I grew up listening to the LES MIZ soundtrack and PHANTOM soundtrack and CHESS and all of these amazing pop/rock n roll-sounding scores. I remember singing along to those albums and memorizing every single word. So, I totally understand why there are kids out there now that are super-psyched about this stuff, and, I think that because of the mass media it is possible to reach more kids.

PC: As do sites like this one.

JK: Absolutely. And, I think that it is interesting music - I think that storytelling through music had been lost a little to us in the 90s and even into the early 200s by sort of simplified lyrics and stuff, so I think that it's great that there is a big audience out there for people who want music by storytellers and it is therefore inspiring a new generation of songwriters and a new generation of artists and a new generation of performers.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: One of those bright newcomers coming up, your NEXT TO NORMAL cast-mate Preston Sadleir, has actually done this column, as well - did you enjoy working with him on that?

JK: Oh, Preston is really great - and, yeah, he is a really talented guy. It was a lot of fun to do that tour, I have to say.

PC: What was it like touring the country with such a powerful new rock score like that of NEXT TO NORMAL and with such a frank, contemporary story being told?

JK: Oh, I think that score is amazing and I think that that show really struck a chord with people and they are sort of more touched by the story and the characters than even they might care to admit or ever thought they would be going in.

PC: It sneaks up on you.

JK: It does. I think that the show opened up the conversation so people can talk about some of those issues more openly with each other now - you know, "Oh, I'm not the only one?" Or, you know, "My grandfather," or "my mother," or "my aunt had that."

PC: The show tackles a number of tricky issues.

JK: I think that, also, the show dealt with loss in a real general way that everyone can relate to - you know, everybody has definitely faced that situation and they are either dealing with it or they are not dealing with it, and, that, also, is a chord that really struck with people. And, it's a really strong show.

PC: It's well-built.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: It is. You know, you and I could go on forever about why shows work or why they don't - good shows work and other shows don't; what makes a show good? I think that with NEXT TO NORMAL, Tom and Brian wrote a great score and a great story and I think that, at the heart of it, that's what makes it work.

PC: Since you have done JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, RENT, AIDA, TOMMY, CHESS, JERSEY BOYS, ROOMS and BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY - all great rock scores - how does NEXT TO NORMAL compare, in your estimation?

JK: Well, to me, it's less about comparing them and more about seeing what they have in common - and, first, they are all telling a good story and telling it well. I think that, obviously, Tom's music is totally different from Pete Townshend's music which is totally different from Andrew Lloyd Webber's music, et cetera, and I think that what they all do they do well. [Pause.] Honestly, I think that's what it all comes down to - I think you have to have really good people in your court.

PC: Work with the best and you'll get better.

JK: Yeah, I mean, if you look at a show like TOMMY or a show like RENT, in both cases you have great directors - they know what they are doing. So, they really help writers create an economical show and I don't think it is a coincidence that those two were involved with so many of the shows you listed.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: Did you get involved with NEXT TO NORMAL as a result of your affiliation with Michael Greif from RENT?

JK: Well, I auditioned for NEXT TO NORMAL just like everybody else, but I think that the fact that I had worked with him might have helped a little bit, but I still had to jump through the hoops like everybody else did. It was a fantastic experience - it was awesome. [Pause. Sighs.] You know, I've never been able to do something with Michael that no one has ever done before, but this was definitely a much closer atmosphere to that than replacing on a show can be otherwise - what we were creating was really organic. You know, they even changed some keys for me, which was really, really cool - I was like, "Oh, that's exciting and fun."

PC: Were you ever involved with FEELING ELECTRIC or any earlier versions of the show at any point?

JK: No, but I am aware of them - Asa Somers, actually, who was on our tour, had played the Doctor in an earlier version. So, I am actually kind of glad that I hadn't seen the show before I did it - the whole weird pre-conceived notion thing really works to my disadvantage, I think. When I did JERSEY BOYS, I actually hadn't seen it until we were already in rehearsals - it was the same with NEXT TO NORMAL. TOMMY was the same way - and I was really screwed with TOMMY, because all I knew was the album, and, as we now know, the musical is very, very different.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: What was your audition experience like?

JK: [Laughs.] I remember I walked in - tie-dyed shirt, crazy purple pants - and, they were like, "What are you doing?!" And, I was like "Umm, I have no idea."

PC: That's hilarious. The Ken Russell movie is brilliant in its own way, I think, too.

JK: Oh, it is - actually, to be honest, I did the musical partially because I was a fan of the movie. But, yeah, definitely, that movie exists on its own, away from what they ended up doing with the musical onstage which is great in its own way.

PC: Did you become involved with RENT before even FOOTLOOSE, or was RENT first?

JK: Yeah, I did RENT in Toronto and then FOOTLOOSE on Broadway.

PC: Your story of coming to New York and landing the lead of FOOTLOOSE on Broadway is so fabulous - could you recount it for us?

JK: Oh, yeah. Well, first, my agent got me the job for FOOTLOOSE originally and then my friend and I got on a bus from Toronto - a twelve-hour bus ride - and came down to New York. So, I did the audition and then they asked if I could come back for the callback the next day, and, so, they asked, "Where are you staying? Where can we get a hold of you?" And, I said, "I have nowhere to stay! I was just planning on going home on the bus tonight!" So, they ended up helping me out finding a place to stay, and, the rest, I guess, is history - I did the callback; got the job; came back to Toronto, packed up my stuff; and, I have never really looked back since that point.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: How old were you?

JK: I was like 21, 22.

PC: Your fantastic TODAY SHOW performance - where you first tell that story - lives on on YouTube, thankfully. Do you remember filming that way back when, almost fifteen years ago?

JK: Yeah, I do. You see, the thing about THE TODAY SHOW is that you have to wake up so, so early - so early!

PC: How early?

JK: Well, you have to do sound check and stuff before they even start doing the actual show live, so you go out and do sound check before even five in the morning. Then, you do teasers for two or three hours and then you perform sometime after that. Actually doing the performance was amazing, but there's a lot of boring stuff that goes into it, too.

PC: What do you think of YouTube and performances living on now in a way that they perhaps did not in past generations?

JK: I think that, as a performer, it is really amazing that there is an archive of some sort - I look at my daughter and I know that when she is like 20 I can tell her, "Hey, look and see me when I was your age and look at how cool I was!" And, then, she still won't think I'm cool, but at least I can remember when I kind of was - or thought I was. [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: Do you enjoy being a dad?

JK: Oh, I do - I love it. I have two daughters; one is 2 and ½ and the other just turned 1.

PC: Did Dean Pitchford and the creative team tailor-make new material in FOOTLOOSE to you specifically? Any examples of that?

JK: Yeah, in some cases, but, you know, look: I was 20, 21 years old and working with these guys who were Grammy winners! These are the actual people who worked with Kenny Loggins and who worked with Sammy Hagar and everybody. I remember in rehearsals when we worked on one of my solos one day and then we went to choreograph it and when we came back, there was Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford and they were working on this new song; I could sort of recognize the lyrics, but the melody was totally different and it took me a while before I realized that they had taken a part of it and then wrote a whole new song, basically, right there. It was so gratifying to be a part of something when I was so young that was ultimately so gratifying.

PC: You were essentially building the show from the ground up, using some pre-existing songs from the film.

JK: Yeah, I mean, there was of course some stuff from the movie, but there was a lot of new stuff being written that was really exciting, too.

PC: FOOTLOOSE was one of the first jukebox screen-to-stage shows that we have subsequently seen become quite popular in the decades since.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: Yeah, we were pretty much the first in that trend. I always say that it's sort of funny to talk about FOOTLOOSE in terms of being a jukebox musical because Dean wrote 95% of the music specifically for that movie. So, you know, "Let's Hear It For The Boy" was written for that scene where he is learning how to dance; you know, "Footloose" was written for that specific spot in the movie at the end; "Girl Gets Around" was written specifically for that scene in the movie where Ariel gets out of the car and rides on top of both of them and all of that. So, even though the movie wasn't really a full-out musical, it still sort of was.

PC: It was a merging of the mediums.

JK: Yeah, I mean, that stuff wasn't in there just because it sounded good - they were writing songs for specific parts of the movie. So, when they finally decided to turn it into a stage musical, it was sort of a no-brainer - like, all of these songs were telling the story already; they weren't trying to force a square peg into a round hole at that point. And, they were writing so much new material, too, all the time.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: It's half and half, pretty much.

JK: As far as it being a screen-to-stage adaptation, they had already originally made it theatrical in the way they had written it, so it was a pretty easy transition. [Pause.] So, yeah, we got a lot of flack for it, but it was different from other things at the time.

PC: How have you seen Broadway change in the intervening years? It is a quite different environment than 1998.

JK: It is, it is - I think it's good that it has changed, but, you know, there are good things and bad things. I think that we definitely have so many young, talented writers out there right now and I wish there were more opportunities for them to get produced - I wish that things like NEXT TO NORMAL and IN THE HEIGHTS happened much more often.

PC: You can say that again.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: Yeah, I mean, I wish people took more chances with more frequency rather than just taking a catalog of songs or some movie - or both - and trying to adapt that to the stage and musicalize it. There are just so many stories to be told and there is just so much talent out there that is seems like so much of it is being wasted.

PC: Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda have both done this column and they are now collaborating on BRING IT ON. Do you think we will hear more rap and contemporary sounds on Broadway in the future thanks to talent and influence like theirs?

JK: You know, I think that popular music has always been a part of Broadway in some way - you know, in the beginning, Top 40 songs came out of Broadway; they came out of the theatre. So many standards premiered on Broadway. I think that when you get smart guys like Lin-Manuel and Tom Kitt, they can tap into that - they are capable of writing Top 40 hits, but they are inspired to write for the theatre. So, I think we need to embrace people like them much more than we do.

PC: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR was one of the last scores to cross over to pop culture and make an impact on the charts. It seems like the way music is experienced is so different than it was then, anyway, does it not?

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: Yeah - things are so different now. I mean, if a hit song came out of a Broadway show that would be great, but I think that these days people are falling in love with the whole scores more - you can download the whole score as easily as you can download one song, after all. I think that people are being touched across the country and around the world by scores like NEXT TO NORMAL and IN THE HEIGHTS, and, while it might not sell anywhere near as much as some terrible Britney Spears song or something, I think that it's all relative; isn't it?

PC: More or less.

JK: If hundreds of thousands of people are hearing the NEXT TO NORMAL score as opposed to just a thousand or a few thousand buying musicals ten years ago, then even that means we are moving forward. [Pause.] It's hard to say, though.

PC: Would a crossover single even be possible, do you think - at least not with a known star or group singing/covering it?

JK: Well, I think that you are right that in order for a song to crossover it would be much more likely for a big star to be singing it were it even going to happen, but, then again, who knows? It's all such a marketing mess that you can't predict anything.

PC: More people probably saw "Pinball Wizard" on GLEE a few weeks ago than saw the entire original Broadway run of TOMMY.

JK: Yeah, that's probably true! [Laughs.]

PC: Do you feel there is a different way of viewing theatre than even ten or fifteen years ago? Is the audience more lax and more casual?

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: The way I feel about that is, like, "If you want to text through the whole thing, why are you even here?" Or, "If you want to talk through the whole show, why are you even here?"

PC: The all-too pervasive living room mentality.

JK: I am a big fan of social media - I especially love Twitter and I think it is a great way to reach out and interact with fans and to publicize events and stuff - but, you know, I think you can wait an hour until intermission or even two hours before the show is done before you text, you know?

PC: It's discourteous.

JK: Another example is the drinks and the food being brought into the theatre, which is a pet peeve of mine - I find it particularly obnoxious - but, I guess we are in a society with the attention span that requires that being available. I mean, spending two hours there with that special group of people in that theater is kind of a sacred thing, so text after if you can - that's how I feel about it.

PC: How did you become involved with this production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR? I assume you were familiar with the original album, being an avowed rock opera fanatic as you are.

JK: Oh, yeah - I definitely came into this having a good grasp on the material; I actually have done the show before in a regional production, as Judas; I know the show pretty well. So, I came onboard in Stratford right before we went to La Jolla and I had a two week rehearsal period where I learned the ensemble track that I was doing, and, then, in the process, we sort of pieced our way through the other two parts I was covering at that point, which were Jesus and Judas. But, then, when we got to La Jolla, I ended up playing Pilate before Tom Hewitt came onboard.

PC: How quickly did you learn Pilate?

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: Just a couple of days. You know, it was like: learn as you go. There's a lot of "learn as you go" in theatre, especially these days - you know, "learn it when you need it." So, I think that I was at a particular advantage with this production being so faithful to the brown album in many ways and I was so familiar with the show originally from that version - it's been much easier to do this as a fan of that.

PC: The orchestrations are new, of course, though.

JK: Yeah, but, remember, that's because they don't have the original orchestrations from the original brown album - back then, they just kind of went into the studio and treated it like a rock band would a setlist or something. You know, they were all amazing musicians, so they played around and they created orchestrations as they went with Andrew guiding it all. What we did, was the team went back to the original brown album and tried to stay as true to those original orchestrations as possible - to the actual instrumentation - and sort of recreate it from the ground up. I think that that's the thing that was so exciting for Andrew with this production - I think that that's one of the things that really drew him to it; the fact that it is sort of what he always wanted with a stage version of SUPERSTAR. We were really true to the original album - and our music director, Rick, really, really was. It was a real testament to that that Andrew came in and worked with the band for several days, fine-tuning and really getting the sound and volume in the places that he wanted them.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: Wow.

JK: Yeah, I mean, how many times has he done this show? How many times has he seen it done? So, quite honestly, I think it was because he liked this production and the way it sounded so much that he stuck around like he did. It was exciting to watch.

PC: Was Tim Rice involved, as well? Josh Young told me about the slight freshening up he did on the lyrics for this production.

JK: Oh, yeah. He was so great and so complimentary to us. I thought it was funny how he really approached it like an actor - he really got in there and tried to see how it felt; he was changing lyrics and moving things around wherever he felt it neccessary.

PC: What were some of the changes that impacted you and your roles in particular?

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: Caiaphas had one of them - there is one point where Caiaphas says, and I'm slightly paraphrasing, "Jesus, you must realize / the serious charges facing you. / You say you're the son of God / in all your handouts, what is it true?" And, he changed it to, "You say you're the son of God / Quite a claim. Well, is it true?"

PC: And interesting shift in tone.

PC: Another one is "I have been saddled with the murder of you," to something else. There have been lots of tiny, tiny changes.

PC: Why do you think he felt them necessary?

JK: Oh, well, I think that, again, he was so excited by this production that he wanted to get in there and make it even better.

PC: Did you discuss Judas with him and get into his head at all?

JK: Well, honestly, I was introduced to him and then he came and saw the show once when I was on as Judas and it was more sort of mutual compliments than specific stuff - but, it was still really exciting. He is such a nice guy.

PC: You can say that again. He and I discussed CHESS extensively when he did this column. What can you tell me about your experiences working on that troubled but thrilling score?

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: Oh, I loved doing that show down in Philly - Euan Morton is the best. It was really exciting to have Tim come and see that production, too - he was very complimentary. I actually said to him, you know, "How about moving this production in or something?" [Laughs.]

PC: A Broadway revival is inevitable - sooner rather than later, hopefully.

JK: Oh, definitely - definitely. Hopefully that production will move forward in some form at some point soon and maybe come to New York.

PC: Will you perhaps do some covers from that and your other roles on a future solo album? It's such a shame so many of your performances have gone unrecorded.

JK: Yes - definitely. You know, quite honestly, I have two little girls now, so the opportunity to sit and be moody in a corner with a guitar for four or five hours doesn't occur very often… [Laughs.]

PC: I bet not!

JK: But, going into a room with songs you love and sort of reexamining them for an album is definitely something I am interested in doing sometime soon.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: Can we expect something along those lines from your Birdland concert on Monday?

JK: Well, I think at Birdland I will be a little bit less reexamining the material than reexamining my life, but it's going to be a lot of fun, nonetheless.

PC: Birdland gives free reign, so what songs can we expect?

JK: Oh, they are so nice over there. The show came about basically because another artist backed out, so, the musical director of this gig, Sonny, asked me if I wanted to do a gig at Birdland in a month or so and I said, "Birdland?! Sure!"

PC: So, you are an understudy for your own solo concert, then!

JK: [Big Laugh.] Exactly! Exactly.

PC: How did you come up with your song list once given the chance to do a show like this?

JK: Well, my wife and I kind of sat down and hashed out ideas of what would work best. You know, I think that when I came to New York originally until now has been about spending a lot of time out on the road, and, now, with SUPERSTAR, I am back - so, we are sort of following that part of my life in song. So, we start when I ended up in New York and follow it all the way through SUPERSTAR with the songs I did in between.

PC: What are some specific songs we can expect?

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: Well, the song list is pretty much all the big songs I've sung before - some Elton John; some RENT...

PC: Your "Rocket Man" is incredible. What are your memories of that absolutely incredible THIS IS YOUR SONG concert?

JK: Aww, thank you so much! That was one of the most exciting things I've ever gotten to do. You know, when they call you for these benefit things you're always like, "Sure, what the hell?!" You just never know what they are going to be. So, with that one, I got there and I realized, "Wait a minute - Elton John's actual touring band is going to be backing us? You've got to be f*cking kidding me!"

PC: Unreal.

JK: It wasn't just his band, either - they brought in all of his monitors and all of his equipment; everything. And, on top of all that, we were singing all of his songs to him!

PC: So mind-blowing.

JK: Oh, it was so, so cool. I remember that we were in rehearsal and right after I finished "Rocket Man" his guitar guy said to me, "Elton is going to be so mad!" And, I said, "Why is that?" and he said, "Because Elton can't hit those high notes like that in concert anymore!" [Laughs.]

PC: What a compliment!

JK: It was such a thrill - I actually still talk about that concert. It was so much fun.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: Did you enjoy your time spent in the tour AIDA? I have heard that the producers had it written into the contracts of the leads of the show on Broadway that they had to go to the gym for a certain amount of time every week, given the skimpy costumes. Is that true?

JK: [Laughs.] I don't know, but I did anyway! You know, when you spend 98% of a show without a shirt on, it's like: "I'm going to the gym today no matter what." But, it still wasn't really enough. You know, I ended up replacing Patrick Cassidy and he had ten years on me but he had this awesome body and looked like he went to the gym all the time. I was like, "Uh oh, I guess this whole drinking beer and smoking cigarettes thing isn't going to cut it with this show!"

PC: How does that compare to having to fill the loincloth in SUPERSTAR now when have to go on as Jesus?

JK: You know, it's like this: every time you want to eat something or you think about taking a cab, you really reconsider it. [Laughs.] You know, being a dad and my like the way it is these days, I'm lucky enough to not have a lot of time to eat, but I remember when I put on the loincloth the first time it was all the motivation I needed. [Laughs.]

PC: AIDA is one of the more underrated recent shows, even though it won 4 Tony Awards. What are your feelings on it not even being nominated for Best Musical way back when?

JK: Well, you know, FOOTLOOSE was my one and only brush with the Tony Awards, so I have a little bit of a sour taste about them because of that - we came out the year Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE was on Broadway and I remember that the lead of that was nominated for Best Actor In A Musical - the same category I was in - yet SWAN LAKE was actually not deemed eligible for Best Musical, so I guess I had my own taste of the silliness of awards with that whole experience. You know, it all seems so silly until you are nominated! [Laughs.]

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: Then it becomes serious, right?!

JK: Yeah, right! That's how all awards always are, though - you just have to look at them as what they are. You know, I dreamed for years of the day I would be nominated for a Tony Award, and, then, it's here and you realize that it's all politics and it's all so much about what will work in a touring market and all of that.

PC: Corporatized.

JK: Yeah, you know, it loses a little of the childhood joy that went with it, I guess. But, with this SUPERSTAR, I am so glad that we were nominated and that they recognized Josh and that the show got to be on the Tony Awards show. You know, the Tony Awards are not really for all of us, it's for the producers of the shows, unfortunately.

PC: Were you perhaps submitted for consideration given the unusual circumstances?

JK: No. I don't think anyone planned on me having to do what I had to do in the beginning. I owe so much to Des and to the Dodgers for having me back and letting me do this great piece - I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. The fact that I could step up to the plate for Des and them and help the production out was a reward in itself - the fact that I could help us all get to this finish line was just awesome.

PC: How would you juxtapose working with Des as opposed to Michael and some of your other directors and collaborators in the past?

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MoreJK: Well, again, they are all totally different - which is hilarious. I think that, at one point, Michael assisted Des in La Jolla, actually.

PC: Oh, really? I didn't know that.

JK: Yeah, I think that's true. But, yeah - they are totally different. Des definitely comes from a more rock n roll mentality, although he is so well-versed in Shakespeare and the classics, too - you know, he is a garage band dude from back in the day. He picked up a guitar one day when he was a kid and that's what he wanted to do; be a rock n roller - he only started directing because he was good at it. On the opposite side, Michael comes at it from a more downtown theatre style, even if his shows tend to have rock music - he has a more black box-y view of what theatre should be. It's funny to compare them, because I think they both come at it from such different places - it's like those circular drawings that meet in the center - they are both geniuses at what they do, and, like I said earlier, they really know how to be conservative with time and as economical as possible with the piece so that it is not overly dramatic in the bad sense of the word at the same time. They are both able to make these incredible, thought-provoking hit shows over and over again - and I just think it's so funny that they can sort of end up with similar things; both of them doing rock-oriented shows like they have.

PC: So, working with both is a thrill?

JK: They are both such exciting directors and I have very close ties to both of them insofar as the language we use when we work together and I have so much respect for both of them and I am so lucky to have been able to work with both of them for all of this time. [Pause.] You know, there are so many talented cats out there, man, and I get to work with these two? I am the luckiest guy in the world.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & MorePC: You really appreciate every chance at bat.

JK: Every single one - every time I am out there, I just thank the stars. I am so lucky to be able to do what I love doing. I am so, so thankful for the opportunity to do it.

PC: One last show I wanted to touch on was BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY - one of the most fascinating 90s rock scores.

JK: It's funny you mention BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY because I just talked to Paul Scott Goodman and we have definitely been throwing around doing a concert version of that. So, keep your eyes out for it!

PC: What's next for you in SUPERSTAR? Will you move into one of the leads eventually or are you seeing how it goes at this point?

JK: Yeah, we are just seeing how it goes. You know, I am just happy being something, somewhere in some show, man!

PC: How gracious. All my best at Birdland and we all can't wait for what you do next, Jeremy!

JK: Thanks so much, brother. This was so great and I really appreciate it. Bye.

InDepth InterView: Jeremy Kushnier Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Birdland Concert, Solo Album & More

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Pat Cerasaro Pat Cerasaro is BroadwayWorld's Chief Interviewer and Senior Editor, contributing exclusive columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Flash Fridays as well as additional special features and extensive news coverage. His work for the site has appeared in The New York Times, US Weekly, The Biography Channel, NBC and more.


 
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