Interview: JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR at Ohio Theater

Stone can’t go on ‘auto-Pilate’ during 50th anniversary of rock musical

By: Sep. 25, 2023
Interview: JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR at Ohio Theater

Alex Stone has not lived in a world without JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. As a result, Stone feels a little bit humbled to be part of the show’s 50th anniversary national tour that rolls into town Oct. 3-8 at the Ohio Theater (39 E. State Street in downtown Columbus).

Columbus is the second stop of the tour for a show that is part rock concert, part Broadway spectacle.

“I have been around half as long as the show,” said Stone, who plays Pontius Pilate, the Roman leader who allows Christ to be crucified. “That’s the thing about this show. Some come to this show for just those three notes (imitating the blast of brass in the moment of the show when the cast cries out ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar’). Or maybe they are just attracted to the story. But everyone comes to this show because the music has had such an impact on them.

“I can remember the shopping mall we were at when my mom put on the brown album (the original cast recording of JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR) the first time. When I heard ‘Heaven on Their Minds,’ there was truly a visceral feeling. I was like, ‘I would love to be part of this production in some facet.’”

The current tour stars Jack Hopewell as Jesus, Elvie Ellis as Judas, and Jaden Dominique as Mary. This is Hopewell’s second go-around at portraying Jesus, having played the Messiah in a production of GODSPELL. Ellis belted out selections from LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS in a recent BEST OF ROCK MUSICALS international tour and was a part of the second national tour of WAITRESS. Dominique is making her national tour debut, but starred in regional productions of RAGTIME, THE WIZ and THE COLOR PURPLE.

The tour marks the third time Stone has been involved with the show written by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Timothy Rice (lyrics). The Virginia native played Judas in a College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) production at the University of Cincinnati and was part of another production of the show in New Orleans.

Stone was playing the spaceship board game Moonrakers with his brother Nick when he found out he made the cast for this go round.

The news meant Stone was not able to finish his run of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY at the Signature Theatre in Washington D.C.

“(Leaving one role for another one) is a part of the business,” Stone said. “Everyone in THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY was so incredibly supportive and they wish me well on my journey.”

Stone then headed to New York for an intensive boot camp to get ready for the coming tour. This is his second national tour, having previously been on the road in a production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

However, he added JESUS CHRIST, SUPERSTAR cranks up the need for precision and preparation.

“This is an entirely new level of show,” Stone said. “The creative team constantly says this show should represent that classic 1971 record.

“You can never really go on autopilot. People are completely focused, driven and willing to give every ounce of energy they have into the 90 minutes they’re on stage.”

Stone has three shining moments in the spotlight as Pilate: his solo in “Pilate’s Dream,” his questioning of Jesus, and Pilate preceding over Jesus’ trial. “Pilate’s Song” capsulates the Roman leader’s feeling of confusion over who Jesus claimed to be, then his understanding of who He is, and how Pilate’s name will be forever entwined with Christ’s story. Rice wrote, “Then I saw thousands of millions Crying for this man/And then I heard them mentioning my name and leaving me the blame.”

Stone credits his professor Aubrey Berg in helping him convey the complex feelings a character can have over the course of a play or musical.

The major thing I learned from Berg is every single character's relationship with other characters on stage is going to be specific, different, and unique,” Stone said. “How Pilate feels about Jesus might change. And the way Jesus feels about Pilate might be completely, contrastingly different. Our relationships on stage influence how we communicate with various characters.

“My character doesn't have too much stage time, so that only amplifies how I need to delve into those moments. But when he does appear on stage, there is a lot to dig into, and there's no time for shortcuts.”

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