Is that you, Jesus? It’s me, Michael Wardrop.
Jesus Christ Superstar, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera, will premiere in Mago Hunt Theatre at the University of Portland Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. The 1970’s musical will feature senior theatre major Michael Wardrop as Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Wardrop will star in this modernized production of the political show alongside senior theatre major Jacob Orr as Judas Iscariot, and freshman theatre major Clare Kessi as Mary Magdalene.
The show, directed by theatre professor Gregory Pulver, has a cast of 58, and includes Beth Barsotti, the Assistant Director of Faith Formation, the University Singers and three young performers: Milo the son of Math Department Chair Stephanie Salomone, Milo’s classmate Flynn and Elise the daughter of CAS Dean Michael Andrews.
“My entire cast has embraced the perspective of Christ that I am portraying with this production,” Pulver said. “It is a contemporary theme looking at the positive and negative effects of social media through the journey of Christ and his followers.”
The Beacon sat down with Wardrop, who also played DJ Gibson in UP’s version of Radio Hour, to ask him a few questions about his experience with Jesus Christ Superstar.
On wanting to play Jesus Christ:
It’s a musical and vocally Jesus is so challenging and just also stuff that I want to sing. “Gethsemane” is the only time in the play Jesus talks to God, and is doubting himself and it’s really good. I wanted to sing that song, so I wanted to be Jesus.
On playing a historically Jewish figure:
Jesus, historically, wasn’t a white man. So while I want to be Jesus, I would so much rather have somebody who was a person of color play Jesus, because Jesus was a person of color. Especially in America and in the Western civilization we live in that is something that is so often forgotten or even kind of erased. People want to believe that Jesus was white, because people want to believe that Jesus was in this white Western culture like them.
Jesus, whether or not you believe Jesus was the Son of man, was first and foremost a human being. So that’s kind of the struggle of the show is showing Jesus’ humanity and reminding people that Jesus wasn’t a god, Jesus was a man. He was a human and he faced all of the vices that humans face.Jesus got angry. Jesus got frustrated.
On being a gay man portraying Jesus:
Jesus will still be portrayed by a gay man. Which I love. Especially, in a climate where I feel like there’s a lot of conservative Christians who are so against homosexuality and believe homosexuality is a sin. Find that for me in the Bible. If you are someone who believes in the book, and things that Jesus said and told you to do, spreading that kind of hate is so contrary to the things that you claim that you believe in. I don’t know, I really like that (that Jesus will be portrayed by a gay man).
On the relationship between Jesus and Judas:
We are not portraying Jesus, necessarily, as a homosexual person. The relationship between Jesus and Judas in our production, not in every production, but in our production, we are focusing on their friendship and just how they are best friends and they are really really close. That’s the dynamic we’re focusing on. There are productions that you might insinuate a homosexual relationship between Jesus and Judas, but that’s not what we’re focused on in this production. I also think it’s too easy.
On his own religious views:
I chose to go to a Catholic university, kind of by chance, but also, I chose to go here. So it’s always been something that I have been surrounded by. I was never baptized Catholic because my mom wanted me to choose my way for myself, and I am so grateful for that. And so, I don’t identify as Catholic. I don’t identify as necessarily religious, but I’m not an atheist. I guess you could say that I’m open to the possibility. I’m open to whatever. I think that there are so many amazing things in the world that it’s hard for me to believe that it’s all by chance, you know? But, I really don’t know what I believe, and I’m OK with that.
Jesus Christ Superstar will be performed in Mago Hunt Theatre at the University of Portland on the following dates and times:
Wednesday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are available via the Mago Hunt Box Office.