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In Tandem Theatre seeks salvation with "Jesus Christ Superstar"

In mounting its concert version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” later this month, In Tandem Theatre Company is seeking economic salvation. That’s what the Milwaukee theater troupe received in 2010 when it staged a successful fundraiser using the same material.

In Tandem cleared $11,500 after expenses from the 2010 show, enough to cover more than two-thirds of the cost to replace the ceiling in its 99-seat theater, located in the lower level of Calvary Church, 935 W. Wisconsin Ave.

From this year’s performances on March 30 and April 1 – Palm Sunday – the troupe hopes to net an additional $10,000 to support its operating fund, according to managing director Jane Flieller. Revenue from tickets simply can’t cover all the costs of producing live theater and running the organization’s administrative aspects, she says.

In Tandem is presenting Lloyd Webber’s work, which began as a 1969 concept album based loosely on the last seven days in the life of Christ, in Calvary Church’s 300-seat sanctuary. The location, timing and subject seem especially appropriate for the start of Easter season, Flieller says.

“The concert version of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is the only project we’ve done in the church sanctuary,” she says. “For a fundraiser like this, it’s advantageous to have more seats and great acoustics. JCS is a natural fit.”

This year’s production, under the musical direction of David Bonofiglio, will include returning cast members Ryan Charles (Jesus), Alison Mary Forbes (Mary Magdalene), David Flores (Herod) and Matt Daniels (Caiaphas). In Tandem artistic director Chris Flieller will perform the role of Pilate and James Jones will appear as Judas Iscariot.

The troupe is counting on the show’s familiarity and its innate seasonal appeal to draw strong crowds. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber’s increased popularity since writing the music also has awakened renewed interest in what is one the his earliest efforts in collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice. A revival is currently playing on Broadway.

“‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is one of the most beloved and recognized musicals ever written, and certainly one of the best rock operas,” Flieller says. “The cast of singers and musicians love the musical so much that they are donating their time and talents in support of this fundraiser for us.”

In Tandem had hoped for a replay of this 2010 fundraiser last year. But rights to the show had been put on hold and were only recently released.

Some staging is involved in the concert performances, and there will be costumes and lighting effects as well. However, there will be minimal movement and the chorus will perform “on book,” meaning they will read from musical scores. The principals will not use scores.

“Some shows are better than others for this format,” Flieller says. “Standards like ‘The Music Man’ and ‘The Sound of Music’ can be done and enjoyed because everyone knows the music. ‘The Rocky Horror Show,” which we bantered about as a possibility, didn’t seem like a good choice, because it is such a visual show and half the fun comes from audience interaction.

“We hope folks will come down and enjoy some terrific music in this beautiful setting, and at the same time help raise money to support In Tandem’s artistic programming.”

On stage

In Tandem Theatre Company presents a concert production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Milwaukee’s Calvary Church, 935 W. Wisconsin Ave., on March 30 at 8 p.m. and April 1 at 2 p.m. For more information, go to www.intandemtheatre.org.

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