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Interview: Jenna Rubaii Talks JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR 50th Anniversary Tour

Now playing Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar, Jenna Rubaii talks about her current role, why Jesus Christ Superstar is a must-see, and more!

Jesus Christ SuperstarKnown for her debut as Joelle in the original Broadway cast of Groundhog Day and now playing the lead role of Mary in Broadway's Jesus Christ Superstar, Jenna Rubaii is nothing short of exceptional. Her stunning voice is notable and necessary to this momentous 50th anniversary production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

BroadwayWorld spoke with Rubaii about her current role, why Jesus Christ Superstar is a must-see, and more!

How does it feel to be back on the road traveling and performing again?

We've been doing it now for six months, so I would be answering this very differently if it was the beginning of tour. It's amazing. It feels great to finally be able to connect with people again. We're still trying to be as safe as possible, but some places have lifted mask mandates, and it's beautiful to see people's faces, to see people smiling and singing along, and to also bring the show back. I think that after Covid, this show in particular, touches people in a different way.

What is your favorite element of Mary's character?

I love that she is the calm within the storm in the show. She's the female, the only female lead in the show, and you have a bunch of crazy rock singing, incredible, energetic, and chaotic storytelling on stage with the beautiful choreography that we have. It's all meant to be really in your face, and our show is basically staged like a rock concert. It's all really energetic. It's high energy and very raw and real. It's almost like if you were to do a close up lens on a camera, Mary gets to be this beautiful, still moment in the show, and the calm and peace within everything that's happening.

What do you think is Mary's most impactful moment in the performance?

Of course it has to be "I Don't Know How To Love Him." It's one of the most beloved songs in the show, and I think it's such a beautiful ballad.

I've been thinking about it a lot, and I can't think of any ballad that sounds like that; there's nothing that it reminds me of. I just think Andrew Lloyd Webber did such an incredible job writing that. It's a really moving song.

What were some of the challenges you faced when preparing to play Mary?

Our director was very particular about us bringing ourselves to the piece. He really wanted us to think of the characters as real people. I think that the challenge with this particular production is that every single night we're asked to bring ourselves to the table, and sometimes that comes with whatever you're feeling that day. Of course the same intention is there whenever we're singing and performing; the message that we're trying to portray to the audience is still there, but we might be feeling something different every night. We might have a little more of a buzz inside of us or exhaustion, so I think the most challenging part about this particular production is that we are asked to be our true, authentic selves every single night, and that is hard to keep fresh. We're 350 performances in, so the most challenging part is keeping that focus night after night and making sure that we're feeling like this is the first time we've ever been singing these songs.

What makes Jesus Christ Superstar a must see show?

It's 50 years strong! It has some of the most incredible music that spans so many different genres. The story is one of the most well-known stories of all time, and I think that the themes within it are relevant forever. It really is such a timeless story with timeless music. Even though it was written in the 1970s, it still feels fresh and raw and new, and I think no matter if you are a religious person or if you're just a person that loves theater and loves music, that you're going to get the same experience out of it. There are a lot of ways to really interpret it. There are a lot of beautiful visuals, so you can really take whatever you want from this piece and still enjoy it no matter why you came to see it.

What would you say to someone who is hesitant to go see Jesus Christ Superstar, and have you had that conversation before?

I would say to try to come with an open mind. Think of this as an incredible rock concert, a light show, a dance concert with insane vocals, and beautiful staging. This show has lived a long life, and it was so controversial when it first came out, and it's still a controversial show in some ways. I think that no matter what, art in general is going to be subjective. You can't really convince people. If they don't like it, then they don't like it, but I also think that there are people that have known and loved the show and think that this particular production is the best version yet. So no, I haven't had to have that conversation with anyone, but I also am a big believer in if you like art, then that's the kind of art you like, and I might like something different.

What are a few of your favorite projects that you've ever worked on, and why were they so special?

I feel like I've been fortunate enough to work on a lot of really incredible projects, and they're all unique in their own way. Honestly, I think Jesus Christ Superstar is so beloved, and it's a dream come true to be a part of it. Some people say, "this is my favorite music of all time, it's my favorite show," and people want to see this show so badly, so I think it's really special to be a part of that legacy.

I have to shout out Groundhog Day on Broadway because it was my Broadway debut. I think that show, for those who were lucky enough to see it, was such a unique trailblazer, trying to do something new within the theater. The show had a lot of inventive elements for the theatrical production, and the story was really beautifully done. Being a part of that was chaotic and also really fulfilling.

Have you and the cast had any time to explore the Dallas area?

I'm usually the first person to go to the museum, see the artwork, so next week I'm definitely going to explore. I see a lot of the murals that seem really incredible around here. I would love to find a honky-tonk. I love different coffee shops, restaurants, and art, so I'm hoping to just walk around the different neighborhoods and check out as much as I can. It seems like a really cool city.

Go see Jenna Rubaii as Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar while it is still here in Dallas. Music Hall at Fair Park April 5-17. Purchase tickets through the Broadway Dallas website. Recommended for ages 10 and up. Run time: 90 minutes with no intermission.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman - MurphyMade

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When JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR first premiered in 1972, it was banned by the BBC for being “sacrilegious.” The musical, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, imagines the last week in the life of Jesus Christ in the form of a sung-through rock opera. The tour currently at DPAC plays into the rock side of the musical. 

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From This Author - Emily Short

Emily Short is the Grant Program Specialist in the Education Policy & Leadership and Research in Mathematics Education units at Southern Methodist University (SMU). She previously taught h... (read more about this author)

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