Gender-neutral ‘controversial’ production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ features non-binary Jesus
The University of Edinburgh’s Savoy Opera Group (EUSOG) is slated to present the first gender-neutral production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.
The rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”, by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Tim Rice, describes Jesus’ last weeks from the perspective of Judas Iscariot.
EUSOG’s version, which aired this week at Edinburgh’s Church Hill Theater, is fully licensed as gender neutral, allowing the cast to play any character despite traditional male and female roles, The Edinburgh Tab reported. The production team made the deal with Lloyd Webber Licensing on the understanding that the show’s lyrics and pronouns remain the same. In the band’s version, Jesus is played by a non-binary actor, someone who does not identify as male or female, and Judas is played by a woman. The 12 Apostles are performed by female or non-binary performers.
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“The gender-neutral casting is one of the main features of the production — we have a female Judas and a non-binary Jesus as the leads,” producer Lew Forman told The Tab. “We are bringing non-binary and female creations out of the shadows and into the spotlight, providing equal opportunity in all aspects of production.”
“EUSOG is proud to present ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, coming to the Church Hill Theater January 24-28 only!” the band wrote in a Facebook post on Jan. 10. “Don’t miss this exciting production – a modern retelling of the ancient tale of love, betrayal and tragedy.”
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Forman said they “really pushed” for the production because “it’s not that I don’t think we couldn’t have found men to play these fantastic roles, I’m convinced we could have. It was more a matter of equal opportunity.” He admitted that the play had been “a bit controversial” as posters advertising the performance had been vandalized.
“By letting go of gender throughout the series, it really helps us focus on the core aspects of the characters and, with the help of the fantastic production team, bring them to life,” says Roza Stevenson, who plays Jesus in the production. “That decision was the reason I applied for an audition! Being a non-binary actor is a strange line to walk. Being able to audition for a show where my gender presentation made no difference broke all barriers.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” debuted on Broadway in 1971. It has been adapted several times over the years, including a 2018 live-action television production starring John Legend as Jesus Christ and Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene.
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Schools have been pushing the boundaries in gender and gender theory in recent years, both on stage and in the classroom.
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