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Parrish directs “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Sioux Empire Community Theatre

WORTHINGTON -- Eric Parrish, an instructor of music and theater at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, is lending his talents for a third time to Sioux Empire Community Theatre (SECT) of Sioux Falls, S.D.

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WORTHINGTON - Eric Parrish, an instructor of music and theater at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, is lending his talents for a third time to Sioux Empire Community Theatre (SECT) of Sioux Falls, S.D.

 

“Jesus Christ Superstar,” a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that debuted on Broadway in 1971, will be performed from May 5-21 at the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Sioux Falls, and Parrish is serving as the show’s director.

 

“This is the third production I’ve directed for them,” explained Parrish, listing “Rent” and “Little Shop of Horrors” as his recent past credits with the theater.

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“The production values at SECT are high, and they have a whole team of people to work with, so it’s a lot of fun to collaborate with them and share the work and creative process.

 

“My job becomes more about inspiring and editing than about strictly teaching, so it’s a slightly different kind of directing than I do locally.”

 

“Jesus Christ Superstar,” which was controversial in the 1970s due to its vision of Jesus Christ as a human rather than Godly figure, tells the story of Jesus’ last few weeks on earth - but largely from the perspective of his betrayer, Judas Iscariot, rather than as it is traditionally depicted in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

 

“It’s really Andrew Lloyd Webber’s interpretation of Jesus, but it stops at the crucifixion and doesn’t address his resurrection,” noted Parrish. “It’s art, rather than presenting itself as the Biblical account.”

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Parrish describes the upcoming staging as a contemporary version of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

 

“We’ve set it in the Roman coliseum and we’re using modern costuming, kind of in the style of the ‘Matrix’ movies,” he said. “It’s not in the style of a church pageant. For musical accompaniment, we’re using a mixture of digital and live rock band instrumentation.

 

“As a director, this is something I’ve always wanted to get my hands on so I could present the distinctive view of how I see it.”

 

According to SECT’s producing artistic director Patrick Pope, that vision is working.

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“It’s looking fantastic,” Pope affirmed. “It’s going to be what it should be: A spectacle in almost every sense of the word.”

 

Pope offered praise for Parrish and his artistic abilities.

 

“Eric is one of my favorite people to deal with,” Pope said. “He is forward-thinking and gives great direction to both seasoned actors and newcomers.

 

“He knows how to walk that line of collaboration, which is so important with many elements in theater, so it’s like having another partner - it’s a collaborative effort from Day One.”

 

The cast is multi-generational, ranging from 18-year-olds to those in their 50s.

 

“Involving varied generations lends a better truth to the story and allows us to cast parts age-appropriately,” commended Pope.

 

Added Parrish, “Working with a broader range of age groups is nice. Typically, older actors have more experience, although that isn’t always the case, so I can have higher expectations.”

 

Featured performers include Raine Jerke as Jesus, Darren Lee as Judas, Jenn Lee as Mary Magdalene and Rick Weiland as Pilate.

 

“We also have three young people from Worthington in the cast,” said Parrish.

 

“D.J. Berger is playing Peter, and Alex Scholtes and Skyla Rautenkranz have roles, too.”

 

Scholtes, a Worthington High School senior, portrays a priest while Rautenkranz, also a WHS senior who was recently seen as Nellie Forbush in the WHS production of “South Pacific,” is a “soul girl.”

 

“It’s been fun to involve these local students,” said Parrish, who has previous directorial experience with each of the Worthington youth.

 

Admitted Berger, “I didn’t know anything about the show until I started doing it when rehearsals started in March.”


He detailed how, as Peter, his character denies Jesus Christ three times in the course of a song that sees him interacting vocally with chorus members and Mary Magdalene.

 

“One of the things I’m liking a lot about it is meeting an entirely new cast, and there are super talented people in this, which is exciting for me,” Berger continued. “I’d seen some of these performers in past shows, but now I’m acting with them.”

 

Pope urges those interested in seeing SECT’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” not to delay in ordering tickets.

 

“We don’t do anything halfway here, and you’ll be spellbound for the duration of the show,” Pope guaranteed.

“All aspects of the show are going to amaze you - it has eye candy, food candy and food for thought. It’s a rare chance to see this.”

 

The Sioux Empire Community Theatre’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” runs from May 5-21, with Thursday through Saturday shows at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. Performances are at 315 N. Phillips Ave., Sioux Falls, S.D. For tickets, call (605) 360-4800 or visit siouxfallstheatre.com.

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