Alvin Crawford Is Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar at Segerstrom Center

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Photo by Matthew Murphy Alvin Crawford, Tyce Green and the company of the North American Tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.

The 50th Anniversary tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” an exclusive Southern California engagement, arrives at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (SCFTA) on November 9 – 14. “What’s the Buzz” all about? Ask Alvin Crawford who rules as the conniving High Priest of Jerusalem, Caiaphas. He has the scoop on Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s re-imagined Masterpiece of musical theater.

The 50th Anniversary show is as much a celebration of the original concept album’ as it is a musical production. The buzz being that this “JesusChrist Superstar” is a Rock Concert within a Musical.

Back in1970, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice couldn’t get the backing needed to stage a show so they released the music as an Album. Nicknamed ‘The Brown Album,’ it won Grammys and topped the charts, opening the doors to Lloyd-Webber and Rice’s visionary production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Crawford says “This Musical show’s format, conceived within the ‘Brown Album,’ was a new way of telling stories in theater.”

Alvin Crawford.
Photo by Matthew Murphy

He continues, “Back in the day, JCS was controversial, using pop songs and unconventional casting to look at history through modern lens. And that’s an example of how big it was then and why it remains fresh today. Our company is similar, we are multicultural, all ethnicities, colors and sizes. On stage we are a reflection of what the world looks like. This was a deliberate decision by Director Timothy Sheader. He along with Choreographer Drew McOnie have made the show a dance and music celebration. In our version there are powerful dances and an exciting fresh take on the music. It’s kind of a Rock Concert and Dance Show all wrapped into one.”

Crawford, with his deep, rumbling voice is ‘Heaven Sent’ in the role of Caiaphas, as a critic commented “Alvin Crawford is strong as the scheming Priest, a deep-voiced anchor.” Crawford concurs, saying “It’s Interesting how I came to play Caiaphas, I’m a Bass and most of my adult life I’ve been told that I should play Caiaphas. So when my agent offered me an audition, I said ‘Oh, yeah, let’s do it!”

Crawford’s height also contributed to his suitability for the role. Crawford commented, “I’m a very tall man so I’ve played Fathers, Kings and yes, High Priests, who are looked on as villains but I like to think of them as misunderstood. Take Caiaphas, he’s a little jealous. He views Jesus as the new kid on the block with a multitude of followers and he sees the Pharisees’ losing their power to this person. The Priests make the decision in song that ‘Jesus Must Die.’ Caiaphas and his cohorts go down into history and story as the antihero’s. My character is a villain and I’m O.K. with that. To play a villain, you have to find the humanity in the man. Villains act out when they are hurt. The most important thing is staying true to my character. I’m a singer/actor but above all I’m a truth teller.”

In “Jesus Christ Superstar” the choreography is much heralded. Crawford explains, “Our production is a little different then what you’d normally see. Even such unlikely characters as Caiaphas and the High Priests are integrated into the show through motion. Normally, Authority types like the Priests have boring discussions around a long table. We, Priests, have the discussion but we incorporate it into a celebratory dance. When our lines are finished, our staffs are turned around, becoming mikes as we sing. And ‘JCS’ fans go ‘Ooooh, as we literally lay into songs with messages.

The music is celebrated through dance. Every player, from band members to ensemble dancers to the Man, moves the show through motion and tells the tale in song. “Everything’s All Right” as the 90 minute musical grooves like a Rock Concert. Crawford says “From the 1st chord at the top of the show the audience goes wild with excitement. On stage the Band plays on raised platforms, slightly behind the action so they are like characters but not really. The show’s music is celebrated through dance. Singing and dance supersede dialogue enlightening viewers in interesting ways. It’s in the way dancers glorify Jesus before turning on him in the mob scene. It’s a dance language that’s unique, powerful and explosive.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” celebrates its 50th Anniversary in the 21st Century with present-day attitudes, awareness and slang. Dark and intense costumes, lighting, the use of instruments, hand-held mikes and Jesus strumming on a guitar as he sings seem designed to humanize the Divine. The Musical, like the Brown Album, is theatrical camp rolled into a dance and musical masterpiece. Crawford describes it more simply in three words “Powerful, Effervescent, and Emotional. The power of the production is seen through the audiences’ reactions, a shimmer comes from our production and it brings out memories and emotions in all who see it.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts November 9-14. For tickets and information in person; The Box Office, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, Ca. 92626; phone, 714-556-2767; Online, SCFTA.org.
Audience advisory from SCFTA : The updated COVID-19 policy requires ticket holders to provide proof of full vaccination against CoVID-19 to attend all indoor performances and events at the Segerstrom Center. This means at least 14 days after your final vaccine dose.

To enter the theater, please bring proof of vaccination, either your physical vaccination card, a picture of your vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record.
Those under 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 theater.
Masks are required at all times for all patrons and visitors regardless of vaccination status in all indoor spaces at SCFTA.

Performance ticket holders who do not comply with these policies will not be admitted.
In parting, Alvin Crawford commented “as we ease out of this pandemic, it’s nice to know that this masterpiece of theater can be experienced in just 90 minutes.”

Alvin Crawford Is Caiaphas in Jesus Christ Superstar at Segerstrom Center