Akron Civic Theatre to Host

All City Musical June 15-16
Posted on 05/30/2018
If you've never experienced "Jesus Christ Superstar" performed live, the Akron Civic Theatre's 2018 All-City Musical is your opportunity.(as reported by Jennifer Conn, Cleveland.com)

If you've never experienced "Jesus Christ Superstar" performed live, the Akron Civic Theatre's 2018 All-City Musical is your opportunity.

The Civic's All-City Musical rock opera is being produced on a professional scale, while featuring youths from 23 area high schools - the highest number of local performers yet.

But it's not a high-school production.

Attendees will be treated to a version of the actual Broadway show, for which the Civic Theatre bought the rights. The sets and lighting are designed and built by professional, union stage hands, and a full orchestra and rock band of local youths will perform the Andrew Lloyd Webber score.

"The opportunity they have with this beautiful, professional theater, and the ability for the kids to perform here is unprecedented," said Director Connor O'Brien. "This is a gem for the Akron area."

This year, the Civic opened auditions up to young actors across Northeast Ohio.

"This gives other kids opportunities, too," said Val Renner, the Civic Theatre's associate director of programming. "Akron is rich in the arts and we take it for granted, but the surrounding communities often don't have a platform for the kids to show their talent."

"Jesus Christ Superstar" was the first musical produced for the professional stage by Webber and Tim Rice. Created 40 years ago, the play portrays events surrounding the last week of Christ's life, told mainly through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. Through song, the story explores the relationships between Jesus, Judas, Mary Magdalene, Christ's disciples and followers, and the Roman Empire.

To earn the All-City roles, the young actors went through a formal audition process. Since April, they have rehearsed several nights per week.

"The Civic can give these young adults the experience of being in a professional production, so they can see what it's really like, what's expected of them," Renner said. "They are the best of the best, and the community should be very proud of the talent that is in our area."

Many of the youths cast in the play have extensive performance experience, while others have never been on a stage, O'Brien said.

"This is way more intense than community theater, but both groups are doing great," he said. "It's much easier to take exceptionally talented people and turn them into a powerhouse ensemble. "

O'Brien is a professional performer and classical violinist, who studied opera at the Eastman School of Music in New York. He sings with symphony orchestras, including the Cleveland Pops orchestra, is featured in American Greetings' singing cards.

O'Brien said he's been wanting to direct "Jesus Christ Superstar" for many years, and with the high talent of the area's youths, he was free to put an interesting spin on the play.

"It's an intense, professional process but watching what they do is breathtaking," he said.

In the All-City performance, Judas Iscariot is played by a female lead, and Mary Magdalene will be performed by two young women who will alternate performances

"There was too much talent," O'Brien said. " I couldn't give it to one person."

King Herod will be performed by two young men of similar height and voice, who will perform in tandem while wearing white and black. Herod's scenes will also feature a ballet section from The University of Akron.

"Watching a rehearsal is such a thrill for me, to see all the kids that have such talent in one room, with one goal -- to make this the best production they've ever been in," Renner said. "And it makes us happy that we're feeding this back into the community and supporting our youth."

O'Brien leads a new creative team for the All-City Musical, with roots in the Akron/Cleveland area.

New Musical Director Sharon Dobbins Alberson is a Kent State University School of Music graduate and was a Blossom Music Scholar with the Cleveland Orchestra. She served as Weathervane Playhouse musical director for years.

Returning Choreographer Brian Murphy, who began his training with the former Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet with Nan Klinger, has worked with more than 100 organizations.

Maestro Gary Davis has been with the All-City Musical since its inception, and is principal trumpet with the Cleveland Pops Orchestra, and a member of the Akron Symphony Orchestra.

Costume designer Irene Mack-Shaefer has been with The University of Akron Costume Shop since 1997, and has worked with Akron Public Schools and Great Lakes Youth Ballet.

Now in its seventh year, the All-City Musical is presented with support from the Civic Theatre's Women's Guild. "Jesus Christ Superstar" offers three performances: Friday, June 15, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 16, at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Ticket are $25 and $20. General admission is $10. Tickets are available at the Akron Civic Theatre Box Office at 330.253.2488, online at the Civic website, or through TicketMaster at 800.745.3000. The Akron Civic Theatre is at 182 S. Main St. in downtown Akron.

Image of All-City Musical Cast Image of All-City Musical Cast
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