First came the return of dance to Segerstrom Center, then symphony and pops concerts.
Now, musicals are making a Covid comeback starting with the exclusive Southern California engagement of the reimagined 50th Anniversary tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar” November 9-14.
Originally concepted as a rock album, the show was transferred to the stage with lyrics and music by Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar and Tony winners Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ, as seen through the eyes of Judas. Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” “Gethsemane” and “Superstar.”
The show is a proven musical phenomenon. NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert attracted nearly 10 million viewers and earned the highest ratings in its time period.
One of the ensemble cast members in the touring production is Brittany Rose Hammond, who splits her time between Huntington Beach and New York when she’s not on the road. Hammond appeared in shows locally and attended OC School of the Arts before setting out for the Great White Way.
She’s been on the current tour since it restarted in September with stops in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco before she makes her way south to Segerstrom Center.
This tour, which is scheduled to travel around the country through August 2022, actually began before the pandemic caused all Broadway shows and tours to suddenly stop for 18 months. In fact, when the show ends next August, it will have been three years since rehearsals began.
So how does it feel to be back?
“It’s exciting—it feels like we were all on pause,” said Hammond during a phone interview prior to a show in San Francisco. “The second the world shut down, I immediately started doing other things. No one knew what the future held. I stayed home with my wife and family. I feel extremely fortunate to have a dance studio, South Coast Performing Arts in Tustin, that welcomes me back to teach whenever I am home.”
Hammond noted that she was “insanely fortunate because not a lot of tours came back, and a lot of Broadway shows closed before they opened, but we came back strong. All of the band and most of the cast came back, along with a few new people.”
Anyone who has seen clips of this production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” will note the physicality of the dancing, which Hammond agrees is extremely physical.
“It’s quite brilliant choreography, and is designed to exhaust us and bring us closer to God,” said Hammond half-joking. “It’s a 90 minute, no intermission modern dance concert with elements of hip hop. We don’t stop moving.”
Essentially, said Hammond, this production is bringing “Jesus Christ Superstar” back to its roots, as though you are listening to the record all the way through—what would that concept in your mind transfer to on stage.
But back to the physicality of the show. How does Hammond maintain her energy for eight shows a week, week after week?
“I have a certain checklist to make sure my mind and body and voice are ready,” explained Hammond. “During the week I don’t go out after the show, I have vocal rest days, and I do yoga every day before the show and I have a nice vocal warmup. With our cast, we have a median age of mid-30s, and with that comes a maturity of taking care of one’s body. We have to. We have physical therapy on tour. You can’t just throw yourself on stage. You have to take really good care of yourself.”
Hammond is looking forward to being back in Orange County and on stage at Segerstrom Center.
“I attended OCSA (OC School of the Arts) and we had our season finale at Segerstrom Center every year,” she said. “I grew up seeing shows there. Now here I am performing on stage as a professional touring adult.”
Naturally, being based in OC means Hammond has a lot of friends, and students, coming to see her in the show. What does she want them, and audiences in general, to know about this version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” before they come?
“Orange County is incredibly diverse when it comes to backgrounds and religious beliefs. This show is neither religious nor sacrilegious. It’s up to you what you take away from the show. You are going into a rock opera that may leave you with some question marks. We are not a church show, but in no way are we making fun of or mocking religion at all.”
She paused, then added with a sly laugh, “Spoiler alert—there is a lot of glitter.”
Single tickets for Jesus Christ Superstar start at $28 and are now available online at SCFTA.org, at the Box office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, or by calling (714) 556-27872.
For additional information about this production, please visit www.ustour.JesusChristSuperstar.com
Audience Advisory: Segerstrom Center’s updated COVID-19 policy requires ticket holders to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to attend all indoor performances and events at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “Fully vaccinated” means your performance is at least 14 days after your final vaccine dose. To enter the theatre, please bring proof of vaccination, either your physical vaccination card, a picture of your vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record. Those who are under age 12 and anyone without proof of being fully vaccinated must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours (3 days) prior to entering the theatre. Masks are required at all times for all patrons and visitors regardless of vaccination status in all indoor spaces at Segerstrom Center.