A rising star on Broadway has returned home to Issaquah. Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Brian Yorkey is back at the Village Theater to direct a brand-new take on a classic: Jesus Christ Superstar. Yorkey has placed a story we all know in a very different, somewhat controversial setting geared to resonate with Seattle audiences. The result? A challenge and invitation for us to take on our concepts of belief, faith, and betrayal in a whole new way.
You may think you know this musical until you get a sense of the vision of director Brian Yorkey. It’s a story of Jesus you never heard in Sunday school, with Roman guards that look a lot like police from Seattle's WTO riots. And that's just one of many twists you'll see from Yorkey, who's been through a life-changing two years on Broadway. His musical, “Next to Normal,” which debuted in Issaquah, earned a Tony Award for Best Original Score in 2009 and a Pulitzer Prize for drama last year. So Yorkey, who started as a KIDSTAGE! student at the Village theater, doesn't have to pull any punches. He says, “There’s no one else in the country that's going to let me direct a production of Jesus Christ Superstar like this, so for better or worse, whether or not they regret it, the fact that they let me try these things is really exciting.”
Michael K. Lee takes on the challenging lead role of Jesus with a double burden. He switches roles between Jesus and his betrayer Judas from show to show with co-star Aaron Finley. One night, it’s Aaron as Jesus taking the shots; the next, it’s Michael. Yorkey is trying to show Jesus and Judas as two sides of the same coin: friends once fighting for the same thing who've now grown apart. Finley says of the unusual double role, “It’s cool because you know what the other person's thinking, because you just did that part. It makes it a lot more intense in my opinion, the feeling between the characters and the roles.” Lee agrees. He says, “The fact that we get to live and breathe in both parts gives us a real opportunity to be as truthful as possible and to really tell an honest story and know where the other person's coming from.”
They’re coming from a place Seattle audiences are very familiar with in the WTO riots, and sharing a story that's been handed down for thousands of years. But don’t come to this production thinking you’ve seen it all before. As Yorkey puts it, “This is a powerful, powerful story, and it's had a tremendous impact on the culture that we live in. And if we can find a way to experience it freshly and be moved by it, whether or not it's part of our faith, I think that can be an exciting experience.”
Jesus Christ Superstar runs through July 3rd at the Village Theater’s Issaquah location, then finishes its run at the Village Theater in Everett from July 8th through the 31st.