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Stratford director 'extremely pleased' to take Jesus Christ Superstar to Broadway

Bruce Dow (centre) as King Herod with members of the company in Stratford's Jesus Christ Superstar.

David Hou/Stratford Shakespeare Festival

After months of speculation, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival has announced its production of Jesus Christ Superstar is headed to Broadway.

The sell-out, critically acclaimed show - directed by artistic director Des McAnuff - is set to begin performances at the Neil Simon Theatre on Thursday, March 1 with an official opening March 22.

Dodger Properties, which has produced such McAnuff-directed hits as Tommy and Jersey Boys, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's own Really Useful Group have signed on to present the Stratford production in New York.

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"I have wanted to do Jesus Christ Superstar for quite a long time," says McAnuff in a press release that went out at 6pm today.

"I'm extremely pleased to be able to stage the piece with the company of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. I am even more pleased to be able to go with them back to La Jolla Playhouse, which I still consider an important home. We will all be very excited to go from there on to New York."

Given that "we - all", it sounds like the young Stratford stars Paul Nolan, who plays Jesus, Chilina Kennedy, who plays Mary Magdalene, and Josh Young, who plays Judas, are all headed for their Broadway debuts. Tony winner Brent Carver (Pontius Pilate) and Bruce Dow (King Herod) can tell them what the Great White Way's like in advance.

A number of Stratford productions have gone on to New York over the years, most recently Christopher Plummer's King Lear, which played at the Lincoln Center in 2002. A transfer of a musical for a commercial run is new ground for the classical repertory theatre, however. ( The Mikado toured to New York in 1983, but this is really an entirely different howdy-do.)

Doubt was cast on the whether the Stratford production of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's show would really make it to Broadway when the New York Times gave it an unenthusiastic review that was a real outlier. But I guess the old Gray Lady just ain't what she used to be when it comes to making and breaking.

Or perhaps Tim Rice is moving ahead with his plan to "deal with critics" with violence, as he suggested in an interview with The Globe and Mail last month. A suggestion that was no doubt tongue-in-cheek, though perhaps Isherwood should avoid dark alleys until Spring just to be sure.

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Theatre critic

J. Kelly Nestruck is The Globe's theatre critic. More

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