THE CAST OF THIS YEAR’S PRODUCTION OF “JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR” during a rehearsal on Wednesday night at the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath.

THE CAST OF THIS YEAR’S PRODUCTION OF “JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR” during a rehearsal on Wednesday night at the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath.

BATH

In 1997, the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath put on a memorable production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” This year, on April 14 and 15, the Chocolate Church will produce the rock opera again with a lot of familiar faces — as early every member of the cast and crew from the 1997 show will return for the reboot in celebration of the show’s 20th anniversary.

“JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR” photos from the show 20 years ago. Ron Bouffard and John York hug it out in the photo above, and other cast members appear in costume and on stage in the column of images to the right.

“JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR” photos from the show 20 years ago. Ron Bouffard and John York hug it out in the photo above, and other cast members appear in costume and on stage in the column of images to the right.

Director Thom Watson — who helmed the production back in ’97 — credits the feat to the “depth of art in the Midcoast community.”

THE CAST OF THIS YEAR’S PRODUCTION OF “JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR” during a recent rehearsal.

THE CAST OF THIS YEAR’S PRODUCTION OF “JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR” during a recent rehearsal.

“It’s great that the people that do it are then willing to come back after 20 years,” said Watson. “That means that not only did the show mean something to them, but this art means something to them.”

Jesus Christ Superstar follows the final days of Jesus’ life leading up to his crucifixion at the hands of the Romans, with special emphasis on apostle Judas’ embattlement with and eventual betrayal of Jesus. The musical was originally written as a rock opera concept album by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in 1970, and subsequently became a Broadway staple. The entire production is portrayed in song and presented on an empty stage.

 

 

When asked to reprise their roles in JCS, the emphasis on singing worried some of the older actors who felt their pipes were out of shape, including Ron Bouffard.

“When I was first asked I was like ‘are you kidding me?’” said Bouffard, who plays Jesus. “This isn’t the easiest vocal show to sing. I was 30 at the time of the first show, and that was a lot easier than trying to sing at 50.”

 

 

But Bouffard said he has been practicing the past two months, “training and stretching” his vocals as he did 30 years ago.

“It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought,” said Bouffard. “After a week of pushing myself and reminding myself how to breathe, I was good.”

Watson said that adding a few younger actors and musicians to the fold has added an influx of youthful energy to the production, too.

“We’ve been joined by a couple of new people who are adding to the show,” said Watson. “The response has been great so far, a mix of old and new.”

 

 

Watson said that compiling the cast for JCS still had its difficulties, as some cast members had moved out of the Midcoast area to places like Portland and Lincoln County.

“Collecting the cast from long distances and finding a space to put this all together has been difficult, but doing this 20 years ago helped set the stage,” said Watson.

The idea to bring the old cast back together came from producer and CCAC board member Marc Rodriguez.

“I was listening to my iPod shuffle a year ago and a Jesus Christ Superstar song came on, so I decided to track down everyone from the show 20 years ago and was really excited to do it,” said Rodriguez. “It was a very magical experience 20 years ago, and in a lot of ways it was a game-changer for Midcoast theater. There weren’t many musicals in the Midcoast before then.”

 

 

Rodriguez said that the two scheduled weekends for the ’97 shows sold out a week in advance.

“Nobody was doing anything like this until then,” Rodriguez said. “Musicals have since become commonplace.”

The band has been together since January, Rodriguez said, and have been training three times a week in preparation for the show. During that time there has “always been an open invitation for the singers to come and train with the band,” said Rodriguez.

“It was a lot of work back in ’97,” said Watson. “I looked at the script from those shows and it’s extensive. But doing this 20 years ago helped us prepare this time.”

Bouffard agreed that age has helped him prepare in ways that wouldn’t have worked 20 years ago.

“The nice thing about being older is I can relate a little better to the character,” said Bouffard, who first tried out for the role of Judas in ‘97 but landed the role of Jesus after performing the character’s pivotal song “Gethsemane” to the judges. “You can hear the empathy because I’ve learned a little bit more in my life.”

Having done all of this before, Bouffard said he is confident everyone will come through.

“It’s like riding a bike for the most part,” said Bouffard. “Not one of us has lost the ability. It will be great when it all comes together.”

Jesus Christ Superstar will run on Friday and Saturday, April 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance and $20 at the door. For more information visit chocolatechurcharts.org.

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