Female plays Jesus Christ lead

Female student was cast as Jesus in LT production of 'Jesus Christ Superstar'

Grant Campbell, Assistant News Editor

LT’s theatre department produced “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the NC Reber Center from Feb. 16 through 19. During each performance, the Reber Center was filled to maximum capacity with an audience eager to see Alyssa Frey ‘19, a female cast as Jesus.

“When I first saw Alyssa’s name on the cast list, I was taken aback,” Michael McInerney ’17 said. “Alyssa was able to prove her skills to a countless number of doubters.  She transcended the title of ‘girl Jesus’ and was just ‘Jesus.”

Productions where Jesus is cast as a girl are very rare, Director Eugene O’Reilly said.

Although there were multiple talented actors auditioning for the role of Jesus, including McInerney [Judas], the goal was to pick the best actor. From the start, there was an announcement that the production would consist of open gender casting, meaning that gender is not a consideration during auditions.

“When people saw her perform, they noticed that it was the best Jesus audition we had,” O’Reilly said. “We took the best actor, not the best boy.”

McInerney played an equally large role as Judas. Both roles of Jesus and Judas are roles with upper registry singing, which both actors considered a struggle.

“As Judas, I was incredibly happy to be given the chance to play the complex character,” McInerney said. “But I was really nervous about memorizing and hitting the high notes.”

On top of the high notes, Frey was presented the challenge of attempting to mimic a masculine personality, while playing the role of Jesus.

“Considering the voice part is written for a man, I had to learn to sing notes I never thought I would have to sing,” Frey said.

Although there were many obstacles in her way, Frey practiced everyday after school until 5:30 starting over winter break. She also assisted in managing the struggle to manipulate her voice and movements.

Throughout the practicing process, Mr. O’Reilly was the cast’s main mentor, Frey said.

“He always supported me and made sure I felt confident about what I was doing,” Frey said.

The confidence that O’Reilly instilled in Frey allowed her to perform to the best of her abilities.

The cast always believed in Frey, however she was criticized by people at school and through social media by people having a problem with a girl playing Jesus, Frey said. Instead of giving up, she turned this negative energy into positive determination.

“For the first week, I was very overwhelmed, but my determination to prove people wrong pushed away the nerves,” she said. “I felt powerful singing these song and communicating the message of the show.”

On stage, the chemistry between McInerney and Frey was evident from the start. Both actors participated in the production of “Legally Blonde”, however they were not the leads.

“We both had small parts in Legally Blonde,” McInerney said. “To see her on stage capturing the essence of Jesus Christ really blew me away.”

Not only did the leads display chemistry, but the whole cast was clearly in sync and worked well together. During practice everyday, they gained opportunities to create new friendships.

“My favorite parts are definitely the friendships I made and getting to play such a complex character,” Frey said.

In addition to becoming more comfortable, the cast bonded over comical parts of the play. As the rehearsals progressed, people found one of McInerney’s lines progressively more funny. By the end, the actors would laugh backstage during the scene, McInerney said.

The LT theater department dedicated the performances to Choreographer Terry Wethington, in honor of his final production. Wethington will retire at the end of the year.

“He played one of the biggest roles imaginable in preparing everyone,” McInerney said. “I’m an extremely lackluster dancer. He not only taught me how to dance, but got me excited about the choreography.”

The sell-out crowds reacted positively to the performances with resounding applause for the entire cast.

“We [cast] put everything we had into this show,” Frey said. “It all paid off seeing how much the crowd loved it.”