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Interview: Learning How to Love Him - Interview with Jenna Rubaii from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Jesus Christ Superstar

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is coming soon to Indianapolis, and we had the good fortune to talk to Jenna Rubaii, who plays Mary Magdalene in the latest Broadway touring production. She offered us keen insights into what makes this production different and gave us a glimpse behind the curtain to learn more about how the magic we see is created by the cast.

Jenna's journey to this role technically started back in 2018, but things didn't quite fall into place until right before rehearsals were set to begin. As she puts it, "randomly I got an email from my agent." This was after she thought she'd been turned down and had moved on. But in the end, everything "came full circle" and gave her the chance to bring this role to life after nearly three years of auditions.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR itself has had a long journey. It was initially released as an album in 1970 before it ever became a full stage production. The album was so successful that the musical was able to follow suit and has now thrilled audiences for 50 years. We asked Jenna how this particular production is moving the show into the future while respecting the past. She said, "I definitely think it has a modern spin, but we're also bringing it back to the roots of the original brown album." That was the concept album first released. So the orchestrations pay homage to those beginnings, but modern nuances make it new, like "insanely intricate choreography" and a format that brings together "a rock show, lights show, dance concert, and passion play." Jenna describes Jesus as the central rockstar while "We're basically the band behind him."

Of course, we had to know how Ms. Rubaii got in touch with her incredibly complex character, Mary Magdalene. She shared that "my prep has gotten more extensive as it's gone on," and she has "done a deep dive into who Mary actually was" in order to discover "why this person was so integral to this story." This led her to the realization that "It's not a typical love story. It's about her finding her faith." She highlighted that Mary brings together discovery, devotion, and spirituality. "It's a way of really taking it to the roots of finding that heart and soul from within."

We also wanted to know if Jenna found a way to connect with Mary on a personal level because the show has such intense and subtle emotions at play. For Jenna, it became "a lot of self-love work," which she says has become "kind of beautiful to my art." She really took the journey of the role and made it her own. "It's all about finding it within yourself." Jenna feels a real kinship with Mary, describing them as "soul sisters." "I feel like there's a bit of curiosity to her, I feel like there is again, there is this devotion to finding out more, to discovering. I think she's a peacemaker, a person who really wants to learn about and exude love, and that's something I really strive to do as well."

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is a jam-packed show, so we were curious how Jenna and the company keep up that intensity for every performance. She said that a lot of that has come from the direction this production has taken. The actors were told that "they wanted us to bring ourselves to the table with every single performance" and to "be as authentic as you can possibly be in that moment." As she describes it, "There's an outline, of course, but a little more room to play" and it's a unique experience to be "able to discover every night [that] where we're at in that moment is okay."

In the end, Jenna said it so well when she shared that her role "means being a part of a legacy." It is a legacy that has touched so many through the decades and is sure to thrill audiences for many more to come. "This particular production is so fresh and new and raw and authentic that we really get to bring ourselves to this piece."

To see Jenna Rubaii and the rest of the company bring this sensation to life, be sure to order your tickets soon. Performances begin January 18th and run through January 23rd at Clowes Memorial Hall.

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