Moonlight opens 2023 summer season with ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
Actor Brian Justin Crum said he hopes to bring a rich psychological dimension to the role of Judas Iscariot at Moonlight Amphitheatre
In returning to live musical theater after a 10-year hiatus, San Diego-born and -educated (at the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Paradise Hills) Brian Justin Crum decided to go local. He’s starring as Judas Iscariot in Moonlight Stage Productions’ staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s venerable “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista.
Crum, 34, has been working steadily as a singer-songwriter and performer. Notably, he appeared in the 11th season of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” He didn’t win, but his cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” and Tears For Fears’ ” Everybody Wants To Rule The World” are YouTube favorites, the former a viral sensation.
The “Jesus Christ Superstar” casting is, Crum says, “a chance to play in a space that feels safe. I did ‘My One and Only’ at Moonlight when I was about 16 years old.”
Not only are the open-air confines familiar, but Crum is performing with a Jesus (Richard Bermudez) whom he has known since their teenage years and a King Herod (Dallas McLaughlin) with whom he did children’s theater.
This is Crum’s second go-round in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He played Simon Peter in a Starlight Musical Theatre production at age 17.
Crum says he connects with the role of Judas on a musical and a contextual level.
“There are very few roles written for me that showcase a voice like mine like this does,” he said of a part that was sung by Murray Head in the original London recording of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and by Carl Anderson in the 1973 film a few years later.
As for Judas the man, “I’ve come to understand the nuances of life and why people do the things they do,” said Crum. “I actually went and read the Gospel of Judas that was found in the 1970s. It goes into detail about the relationship between him and Jesus and how Jesus wanted him to do this (the betrayal).
“I’ve connected to this idea that things aren’t really what they seem on the surface and people are complex and emotional and devoted to their friends and their relationships.”
Expanding further, Crum said that “There are a lot of beautiful qualities about Judas that have gotten lost through history. My hope is to bring something to this character that feels very soft and tender in a way that I haven’t seen Judas portrayed before.”
Crum likens the reconsideration of Judas to that of the character of Elphaba, the “Wicked Witch” in the Broadway smash “Wicked.” He knows a little about that Stephen Schwartz musical, too, having performed in the cast of a national tour.
But back to the music of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which includes such tour-de-force tunes for Judas as “Heaven On Their Minds,” the scathing medley “Damned for All Time/Blood Money” and the show’s title song.
“It’s incredibly demanding vocally,” said Crum. “I am a tenor of tenors. I love getting to sing up there. It’s so deeply emotional for me and the way that I connect with these songs is so human for me. I really feel like I’m getting to express things that I’m going through in my own life in a way, and this is going to give me an outlet to workshop feelings that I have for myself.”
‘Jesus Christ Superstar’
When: Opens Wednesday, May 10 and runs through May 27. Showtimes: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays
Where: Moonlight Amphitheatre, Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista
Phone: (760) 724-2110
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