Metro Weekly

Bringing the glam to King Herod in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

Paul Louis Lessard is an impish delight as King Herod in the 50th-anniversary tour of the classic musical.

Jesus Christ Superstar: Paul Louis Lessard -- Photo: Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade
Jesus Christ Superstar: Paul Louis Lessard — Photo: Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade

Before it ever graced a Broadway stage, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s iconic rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar took shape as a landmark album.

Released in 1970 to resounding success, that recording captivated audiences worldwide, spawning the original Tony-nominated production, the cult classic 1973 film, and countless concerts, adaptations, and revivals — including, nearly 50 years later, director Timothy Sheader’s acclaimed London production staged by Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

Now, Sheader and choreographer Drew McOnie’s driving, modern-dress iteration is repping the musical’s 50th anniversary on a North American tour, currently anointing the Kennedy Center Opera House with dulcet voices and shredding guitars.

Performed by a youthful cast wielding microphones and playing instruments, supported by a stellar orchestra stacked behind them on scaffolding, the show strikes an agreeable balance between concert and theater.

“Our production is based off the original concept album,” says Paul Louis Lessard, whose gold-lamé-frocked King Herod is an impish delight in the show, challenging Jesus to prove himself the miraculous Christ. “The idea was, if you put on the record at the beginning of our show and pressed play, what you experience with our production is what it would be like to listen to that record all the way through without stopping.”

Because the production’s focus is honoring Webber and Rice’s score, Lessard adds, “our creative team was very encouraging about every performer bringing themself to the role, and making the music the priority of the show and this interpretation. And what’s wonderful is we’re encouraged to fully embrace the rock element of the whole thing. Like, you know, 2000 years ago, there weren’t microphones, people weren’t playing guitars. So there’s a suspension of disbelief in that aspect. And I love it, because more than anything, I consider myself a performer and a singer, as opposed to an actor.”

Lessard grew up in Michigan an avowed fan of Superstar, raised on the vinyl box-set known by its dust jacket as The Brown Album. “My parents bought the album when they were in college. They were hippie adjacent,” Lessard recalls.

“They would put the record on around Easter every year. I would hear this music, and I would love it because it sounded so raw and electric and thrilling and kind of dangerous. And it means a lot to be a part of this production, and to be able to just represent myself and others in the queer community with my performance. I feel like I couldn’t ask for a better role and a better show and more supportive creative team. So I’m just trying to embrace all of that in my performance every night.”

Jesus Christ Superstar runs until March 13 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets are $45 to $185. Call 202-467-4600, or visit

The 50th Anniversary U.S. Tour continues through August to cities including Dallas (4/5-17), Atlanta (4/19-24), Miami (5/31-6/5), Richmond (6/21-26), Memphis (6/28-7/3), and Chicago (7/19-31). Visit

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