When the production of Jesus Christ Superstar takes the stage at the Capitol Theatre next weekend there are going to be many familiar faces from the local and international theatre world.
But in addition to Bessie Wapp and Kevin Armstrong — who are playing two of the production’s larger roles — are two novice actors taking on the role of Jesus Christ.
Aaron Nelson and Josh Murray are sharing the task of portraying Christ, and will take the stage for the first time when the curtain opens on Thursday, November 8.
“This is my first show ever,” said Nelson. “I did theatre when I was in elementary school, but this is the first time since I have been an adult.”
Like Murray, Nelson’s experience comes mostly from performing as a musician.
Murray heard about the auditions for Jesus Christ Superstar from his wife, who was excited about trying out.
“I guess her excitement was a bit contagious so I decided to check it out,” he said. “We watched it together. I had never seen it before, but afterward decided I wanted to try out as well.”
While Nelson didn’t have his sights set on any particular role, Murray knew from the moment he saw Jesus Christ Superstar, he wanted to be Jesus.
“I even dressed for the role when I went for the audition,” Murray says. “When I got married last summer the outfit I wore was a hemp tunic and hemp pants.”
In the audition, both Jesuses sang the major solo of the production, Gethsemane.
“I thought if I am going to go for it, I might as well go for the big one,” said Nelson. “I was quite surprised I got it. I thought I nailed it pretty well in the audition. It felt pretty good, but I was surprised because I had never been in theatre before.”
Even though the task of playing Christ may seem daunting to some novice actors, both Murray and Nelson were confident in their abilities.
“It actually came pretty easy considering it is really my first experience with acting,” said Murray. “I have found it pretty easy to get into character and get into that zone, which is pretty surprising.”
“I didn’t feel unsure,” said Nelson. “I was pretty confident because I have been singing for so many years. I had been singing along with the album for ages too, so I basically knew all the songs already.”
Murray and Nelson also found watching each other on stage helped visualize the role and the goals of director Kevin Armstrong.
“It’s excellent to see [Murray] do the role,” said Nelson. “It’s neat because then you can really get a good idea of how the scene should work. We are doing the exact same movements and singing so it really helps a lot to watch him.”
With opening night on the horizon, neither Jesus seemed nervous about sharing the production with the audience.
While Murray said he is anxious now, he is mostly excited.
Like Murray, Nelson is confident about opening night having spent a lot of time rehearsing and even watching videotapes of himself doing the scenes.
“I go home and check it out and make sure I’m looking okay and the scenes are okay,” said Nelson.
As for future productions, both Jesuses said they have “caught the bug.”
“I haven’t thought about what other roles I’d like to do,” said Murray. “One my wife has been wanting to convince people to try out for is Beauty and the Beast. I think Gaston would be a fun role to play.”
Jesus Christ Superstar opens on Thursday, November 8 at the Capitol Theatre at 8 p.m. It will run until November 11 with 2 p.m. matinees on November 10 and 11.
For more information and tickets visit: capitoltheatre.bc.ca or the Capitol Theatre box office.