It’s been over 50 years since Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Broadway in 1971. Its success was soon followed that same year by Godspell. Now, His Story, a new Christian theatrical production that some say could outshine both, officially premieres in Dallas.
His Story: The Musical is a contemporary pop musical exploring the life of Jesus in an immersive style that has been compared to the Broadway hit “Hamilton” for its unique use of modern music, catchy tunes, storyline and energetic young performers. It features music and lyrics by creative wonder Anna Miriam Brown, with direction by two-time Tony Award nominee Jeff Calhoun (Disney’s Newsies, Bonnie & Clyde), and is presented by Tony Award-nominated producer Bruce Lazarus, Willie and Korie Robertson (stars of “Duck Dynasty,” plus numerous Tony Award-nominated producers, directors, technicians and actors.
“I have worked on seventeen Broadway musicals, but nothing prepared me for the shock and awe of meeting this truly amazing artist, Anna Brown,” says Calhoun. “Anna’s Gen Z perspective has made this familiar story youthful and contemporary …not exactly adjectives I had previously associated with the Bible. I am excited to use the theater to bring all types of people together to share a message that is so needed in today’s climate. My prayer is that once you experience His Story: The Musical, you will leave the theater with a renewed optimism about the potential of humanity.”
Calhoun and the production’s creator say the message will resonate with today’s audiences.
Bruce Lazarus, who is Jewish, serves as producer and comes to the show after previously running the theatrical publishing house Samuel French. “It’s by no means a pageant,” he told the Jewisih publication The Forward. “Our show is not corny. Our show is Broadway.”
But while Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell were known for ignoring the resurrection and the diety of Christ, His Story remains true to the central point of the Christian message and biblical accuracy.
The story revolves around Jesus as he performs miracles and speaks great wisdom, but chooses friends from the dregs of society and hangs out in the wrong part of town. Mocked by the establishment, he is adored by the people. Observers say it melds a youthful voice with a timeless perspective, bringing “the greatest story ever told” into the third millennium, reminding us of the universal power of love and redemption.
The Forward’s Rebecca Salzhauer calls it a “radical theatrical tactic” that humanizes the characters by reflecting current musical trends and culture, “making them accessible for a 21st century audience. Lucifer is a pop diva, and Mother Mary sounds like Taylor Swift. The show’s diverse, primarily Gen Z cast portrays Jesus and his disciples as empathetic characters who just so happen to have started the world’s largest religion.”
The production features Max Kuenzer as Jesus, Lily Gast as Mary Magdalene, Richard Chaz Gomez as Judas, Jataria Heyward as Mother Mary, Logan Dolence as Joseph, Casey Lamont as Lucifer, Carlos Gutierrez as Gabriel, Bryan Munar as Peter, Camden Deal as Leper, Justin Taylor as Matthew, Caleb Bermejo as Pontius Pilate, Mat Blasio as Nicodemus, Courtney Blanc as Caiaphus, Ja’Naye Flanagan, Lia Karagianopoulos, Abby Murphy, Audrey Lee, Gigi Hausman, Nicholas Haas and Mark Quach.
With top talent from both the Broadway and arena touring industries, the creative team for His Story: The Musical features choreographer Eamon Foley (Annie at The Hollywood Bowl), music supervisor Rick Hip-Flores (Natasha, Pierre…, In Transit on Broadway); arrangers Rick Hip-Flores and Paweł ‘Bzim’ Zarecki; scenic designer Tobin Ost, costume designer Junghyun Georgia Lee, lighting designer Sooner Routhier, sound designer Daniel Lundberg, projection designer Caite Hevner, hair & make-up designer Tommy Kurzman, and music director Jesse Fry. Production Management by Tinc Productions. General Management is by Visceral Entertainment. Casting is by Eisenberg / Beans Casting.
“Immediately, on hearing the music I knew I wanted to bring His Story: The Musical to a worldwide audience, and knew that Grandscape was the perfect place to start the journey,” says producer Bruce Lazarus. “It has always been our aim to form a company led by local, Texas talent. We are proud to say that we will have brought nearly 150 new jobs to the region. We cannot wait for this extraordinary company to take the stage and bring His Story to life for Dallas-Fort Worth audiences.”
“In every generation, new voices point us to Jesus in unique, powerful and creative ways, say producers Willie and Korie Robertson. “We believe Anna Miriam Brown, who was 17 years old when she wrote His Story: The Musical is one of those extraordinary voices. We are thrilled to be a part of bringing this musical to the stage.”
Now 22, Anna Brown started writing His Story: The Musical at the age of 16 while on a mission to Africa. A dyslexic, unable to read or write before 9 years old, homeschooled, Anna focused instead on the arts before writing her first songs at 15.
As a social-media-savvy Gen Z, she says she sees a chance to reach her generation with the timeless story of light and hope. Anna is an author and illustrator of over a dozen educational books, some bestsellers, for children, especially kids with Dyslexia and teens with their passions and career goals.
Director Calhoun is no stranger to Broadway hits.
He directed Disney’s Newsies (Tony Award Nomination for Best Director), Bonnie & Clyde, Jekyll & Hyde, Grey Gardens, Deaf West’s Big River (recipient of Tony Honor for Excellence, and a Tony Award Nomination for Best Revival of a Musical), Brooklyn, Annie Get Your Gun, Grease (Tony Award Nomination for Best Choreography), Tommy Tune Tonite, and The Will Rogers Follies. Tour and Internationally: Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 (US National Tour, London, Australia) and Disney’s High School Musical 1 & 2.
As for reviews and pre-show articles, The Forward joins other news outlets saying there’s something special about His Story and sets it apart from previous Broadway adaptations of the life of Jesus like Superstar and Godspell.
“His Story‘s relationship to religion sets it apart from other musicals,” writes The Forward’s Salzhauer. The show’s canonical predecessors use Jesus as a theatrical metaphor: Jesus Christ Superstar is about fame and celebrity-worship; Godspell follows a band of hippies who build a community. None of them overtly proclaim Jesus’ divinity. While Brown’s musical has similar themes of kindness, love and redemption, it’s fundamentally a musical about the dawn of Christian faith.
The Original Concept Recording of His Story: The Musical is now available on Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and all major platforms.
Tickets are now on sale at Ticketmaster.com. For further information, visit HisStoryTheMusical.com.
To inquire about special rates for groups of 20+, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call, toll-free, 855-HIS-STORY (855-447-7867).
For further information, including performance schedules, visit www.HisStoryTheMusical.com.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice