After an epic return to his hometown as part of KHAOS, Kevin Armstrong is now settling back to his roots by helping bring Jesus Christ Superstar to the Capitol Theatre stage.
“It’s a show that I have lived with for a couple of years [as part of the cast] and a show that I still love very much,” Armstrong says. “I loved it even before I did it and I love it even more since I have done it. I’ve been wanting to do my own production of it for a long time and it just so happened that all of the stars came into alignment. It seemed like the right time.”
Armstrong, 37, grew up in Nelson where a love for all things music was fostered from a young age.
“When I was about 12 I decided I wanted be a professional musician and it’s been my life ever since,” he says.
Once he graduated from high school, in 1996 Armstrong moved onto to McGill University in Montreal where he studied music and graduated with a master’s degree in opera performance.
In 2002 he moved to Zurich, Switzerland where he did an apprenticeship at the Zurich Opera House. That stint lead to a 10 year stay in Europe that saw Armstrong perform in more than 100 productions ranging from Carmen to Night of the Musicals.
“I got my foot in the door a couple of times and I never quite had the breakthrough that I needed,” says Armstrong. “But I was able to live from it for 10 years and had the opportunity to see a lot of things I wanted to see, learn new languages, meet amazing people and had a great time. But it was definitely the time to move onto the next step. And this is the next step.”
Armstrong was also lured back to his hometown by love having recently married local musician Laura Johnson. The two met when he was back visiting a couple of years ago and he stopped into the Coconut Lounge to see a friend perform. Johnson owned the late night coffee shop and music venue. The rest is modern history.
Fresh from his return, Armstrong threw himself into KHAOS where he was cast as Cerberus. Being part of the hugely successful locally produced opera gave Armstrong the fuel he needed to continue bringing great music to a hungry regional audience.
“Coming off the big success of KHAOS, I am very motivated to keep the momentum going,” he says. “Hopefully we can get a few productions a year happening and maybe get a semi-professional group going. We have the talent here… let’s do it.”
Armstrong was part of three different Jesus Christ Superstar productions in Europe where he played Pilate. When Nelson Opera Society driving force Marty Horswill asked Armstrong if he was interested in heading up the next production, he jumped at the opportunity to bring the rock opera to the community for the first time ever.
“The music is just awesome,” says Armstrong about the allure of the Andrew Lloyd Webber work that first hit the Broadway stage in 1971.
“It never gets boring and that is why it has survived for 40-plus years. It’s just as relevant today as it was back then, it’s full of energy. There is something for everybody, people who love classical music, people who like folk songs, people who like rock-out numbers and people who like Broadway musicals. It’s a story that everybody knows and told in a very non-threatening way. It’s more of a story about friendship gone sour than about religion.”
And now Armstrong is looking for a cast that’s up the task.
“If you find a couple of strong singers for those main parts — Jesus and Judas — everything else will fall into place,” he says.
Though the community is full of well known incredible talent, Armstrong is also looking for some hidden gems to be part of the November five-show run.
“I am sure there are some people out there with the chops that just haven’t had the right opportunity… hopefully they will come out of the woodwork,” Armstrong says.
Auditions for Jesus Christ Superstar are being held this weekend. If you are interested in taking a shot, email Armstrong at email@example.com or call 250-777-2461.
HEAD: An awesome introduction to opera
When Jesus Christ Superstar comes alive on the Capitol Theatre stage in mid-November, Kevin Armstrong’s voice will be behind the scenes holding the entire production together with his leadership. But those wanting to see his impressive vocal talents on stage will get a chance on June 2 when he brings Opera for Heathens to the Capitol.
Opera for Heathens is Armstrong’s one-man show that pairs his four-octave vocal range with his skills as a guitarist.
“It’s everything that is vocally grandiose and connected to music theatre somehow,” he says.
Opera for Heathens includes everything from Puccini and Rossini to Queen and Meatloaf (in German).
The show was a hit at last year’s Edmonton Fringe Festival. This summer he will again be taking his talents to the Alberta capital and also the Vancouver Fringe Festival. As he gets settled back into his old hometown, Armstrong felt it was a great opportunity to get warmed up for his summer festival tour.
“I have a very narrow window of opportunity before people get bored of me, so I want to take advantage of it” he says with a laugh.
Tickets for Opera for Heathens are available at the Capitol Theatre box office or online at capitoltheatre.bc.ca.