If you love the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar or even if you hate it because you can’t stand all the pomp that accompanies Broadway shows, have I got a show for you! Jesus has graced the Theatre St. Catherine stage not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR times in Jesus Christ Superband. All your favorite rockin’ tunes from the musical, all the free spirit of Theatre St. Catherine. It’s a gorgeous mix. I spoke to Sandi Armstrong, Jesus herself, about the show.
Rachel Levine (RL): How does one get ready to play Jesus?
Sandi Armstrong (SA): Well, as an improviser I don’t do a lot of planning ahead of time. Besides, I am so familiar with this show. I just hope that I can find some sort of beams of light before I get on stage. The show is so much fun to do and I try to play the kind of Jesus that I would hang out with. Not a perfect Jesus, like the Jesus I grew up with… I try to be that rock and roll Jesus.
I don’t prepare to be Jesus, but I found that the first time I did the show, a friend was in the audience and her eyes sparkled. I felt like-minded too. I grabbed on to it. Love everyone, forgive everyone and don’t come into it with any preconceived ideas why people are there. Be open in order to give people a beautiful time.
It’s part of acting — to be the host, to make sure you are welcome and host. So, it’s not that much of a stretch to be Jesus.
RL: Any reservations about being a female, gender-bender Jesus?
SA: As a Catholic, there’s lots of guilt there. My mom is a religious person. When I told her I was doing this show, I was nervous to tell her. She wanted to know if I we were spoofing it. But, we’re not. We’re doing an homage to the rock opera. We’re not being blasphemous. There are comedic moments to the story, but I think I believe… and what I was taught… is that Jesus is just like us and hopefully someone we can relate to. I try not think that we’re doing anything wrong.
RL: Was there a reason why you play Jesus in the show?
SA: I couldn’t hit the high notes as Mary. I sang it in my apartment with a friend of mine where I was Mary and I couldn’t hit those notes. People who know this rock opera love this rock opera. When I lived with my friend, we both knew all the songs. We might have had a few drinks and put record on and played around the house. Since [Mary and Jesus] sing a lot of songs together, I became Jesus. When we decided to do it on stage, we thought, let’s keep it together that way. Let’s do it and hopefully people can look past that.
RL: Which Jesus do you like better, this one or the Godspell Jesus?
SA: I’m not familiar with Godspell. I’m not a fan of musicals. I like this one and I like the Wiz. I’m more into soulful, rock kind of music, not classic show tunes. We’re going for the most rock and roll version of the show we can.
RL: Do you have a favorite song in the musical?
SA: I used to love Judas’ songs. Judas wasn’t at rehearsal last night and I sang his songs and I realized they are really tough songs.
RL: This is your fourth year. How did you end up putting on the show in the first place?
SA: Yeah, I’m the reason it happens. I have a carte blanche at the Theatre St. Catherine. I’ve been there since it opened and I’m the leader of the improv. Alain put me in a lot of plays. When they took over, I got to do whatever I liked. I didn’t take the reins on many projects, but I hung out with Jeff down in the basement, and I was talking about doing a few of these songs or doing the whole play. He started playing all the songs. Well, we thought, if more than two people are into doing this, let’s make it happen. Everyone I mentioned it to was on board and I was gung-ho.
RL: Final words on the play?
SA: Not really. It’s not preachy. I don’t want it to be preachy. The message is that Jesus was just a regular guy with sometimes regular problems, but has magical and mystical ways of solving them. I just want people to feel as good as I do when I hear the music. Music goes further than language.
Jesus Christ Superband plays at the Theatre St. Catherine (264 St Catherine E) on April 9-11 and 16-18 at 8 p.m. Tickets $15.