Switching characters every show | ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ gives lead actors a creative challenge

It's hard enough for an actor to perfect one lead role in a musical theater production. Let alone two. But that's exactly what what 28-year-old Aaron Finley of Seattle has been trying to do in rehearsal for his two roles in Village Theatre's "Jesus Christ Superstar." The Issaquah rendering of the 70s rock opera is directed by Brian Yorkey, a Pulitzer and Tony award-winner.

Michael K. Lee (Jesus)

Michael K. Lee (Jesus)

It’s hard enough for an actor to perfect one lead role in a musical theater production. Let alone two.

But that’s exactly what what 28-year-old Aaron Finley of Seattle has been trying to do in rehearsal for his two roles in Village Theatre’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The Issaquah rendering of the 70s rock opera is directed by Brian Yorkey, a Pulitzer and Tony award-winner.

Pick one of the show’s performances May 11-July 3, and Finely will  be acting, singing and dancing in the role of Jesus. Come again the next night, and he’ll be appearing as Judas. Finley alternates the two principal characters with Los Angeles-based actor Michael K. Lee.

Tackling two different characters has been quite the creative challenge in Finley’s first-ever starring role, or roles.

“It’s an absolutely crazy, nuts concept,” said the Pacific Lutheran University theater graduate.

At college, the former high-school choir singer was encouraged to bring his vocal talent to the stage for a role in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He found his calling then and later got involved with Village Theatre doing readings and smaller parts.

It’s the mentors he gained in Issaquah that have given him the skills to rise in the musical theater world.

“I was their theater baby,” he said.

There’s something exciting about playing both Jesus and Judas. Jesus is of course, such a crucial and significant character, but the audience often has strong ideas about how he should be portrayed, Finley said. Judas on the other hand, is quite a heady role.

“There’s something so energizing about Judas,” he said. “There’s this cool moment when he comes out and he’s pleading with Jesus saying, ‘Listen to me, if you don’t stop talking about your God you’re going to get us all killed.”

The musical focuses on the close friendship between the two characters, a crucial aspect to this nontraditional telling of the biblical story. Finley and Lee’s alternating of the roles has helped this bond between the two men translate on stage.

“I know what’s going through Michael’s head; I know what he’s going through,” Finley said.

With rock music, hoodies and sneakers for costumes and a nod to local WTO riots in an urban setting, it’s definitely not the Bible’s version of the story – it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s.

It’s not meant to be offensive or blasphemous. Finley said it’s this kind of edgy, raw quality that makes people get excited about musical theater and help to draw in new audiences.

For more information and tickets, go to the Village Theatre at 303 Front St. N., Issaquah; 425-392-2202 and www.villagetheatre.org.

Michael K. Lee (Judas), Aaron Finley (Jesus). The actors’ roles are reversed here from top. Photo by Jay Koh. Courtesy of Village Theatre.


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