Tag Archives: jesus christ superstar

In the spotlight: NWT alumna Katie Klaus

Katie Klaus

Katie Klaus

Katie Klaus’s credits as a Broadway actor include The Bridges of Madison County, Bonnie and Clyde, A Catered Affair, and Inherit the Wind. Her first show at Near West Theatre, while she was a student at Brunswick High School, was Brigadoon (2001). She graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2006 with a degree in musical theater.

1. What’s one strong early Near West Theatre memory you have?
Warmups with Stephanie Morrison Hrbek and Bob Navis are a memory I won’t ever forget. I was nervous to join NWT, but after Stephanie and Bob got in front of the cast and wiggled around with no inhibitions, my nerves instantly melted away. It was so freeing to be around them and the cast.

2. Now that you’re a professional actor, what’s something that sticks with you even now from your Near West Theatre days? 
I always bring myself into my work. NWT gave me a safe place to shatter my boundaries and explore who I am. Because I learned that freedom, the work I do as an actor has a uniqueness found only in trusting yourself and

Katie Klaus with Alex Nosse in The Baker's Wife (2002). Photo by Rob Sommerfelt.

Katie Klaus with Alex Nosse in The Baker’s Wife (2002). Photo by Rob Sommerfelt.

the people around you to create something wonderful together. This is a gift from NWT I am very grateful for.

3. What’s your hope for Near West Theatre now that we’re about to open our long-awaited new building and a new chapter in our history? 
I hope that the summer shows won’t have to perform in 100-degree heat anymore! (just kiddin’!) Although that will be a welcomed perk, I know the NWT, with the group it was when I was there and the people it consistently attracts to do shows, will always give people a place to let their creativity fly free and grow. My hope is that it reaches an even wider group of people in Ohio and shows them what a unique and amazing place it is. Ohio needs more places like Near West Theatre.

Katie Klaus (right) as Pontius Pilate, with Carlos Cruz as Jesus, in Jesus Christ Superstar (2003). Photo by Rob Sommerfelt

Katie Klaus (right) as Pontius Pilate, with Carlos Cruz as Jesus, in Jesus Christ Superstar (2003). Photo by Rob Sommerfelt

— Hans Holznagel

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences. A version of this article was also featured in the January 2015 edition of Near West Theatre’s monthly e-newsletter, The Near West Circle.

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‘Superstar’ in sign language, Thu., Dec. 4

The HeArd, "Godspell, 2005

The HeArd members Merry Beth Pietila, Vince Reddy and Erin LaFountain interpret Godspell at Near West Theatre in 2005.

It’s a Near West Theatre tradition since 2003: One performance of our fall show is dramatically interpreted in American Sign Language. It’s an art unto itself that you should check out whether you know sign language or not. Members of a Cleveland-area dramatic signing troupe, The HeArd, will interpret the regular 7:30 p.m. performance of Jesus Christ Superstar this Thursday, Dec. 4. Tickets are priced as usual ($20 Star Seat, $10 general adult, $8 general child); just indicate when ordering or arriving that you want to sit in the sign-language section. The interpreters sit near the front, face the audience and deliver much more than a translation of sung and spoken words. Not only has the troupe learned the show, but each member has learned specific roles to play throughout the performance. They take their own emotional journeys, exchange dialogue, sign together in ensemble moments — presenting, in essence, an additional version of the play at the same time as the main-stage show. You can focus on either one, or, as I’ve experienced it, amazingly, pick up aspects of both at the same time. At the end of the business day on Dec. 3, about 120 tickets were still available for the Thursday performance. You can reserve online anytime or by phone, 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. Any unsold tickets are available at the door, 3800 Bridge Ave., starting 1 hour before show time. — Hans Holznagel


Our ‘Superstar’ venue: what to expect

West Side UCC is on the same side of Bridge Avenue as our former home, the St. Patrick's Club Building. Photo by Hans Holznagel

West Side United Church of Christ viewed from Bridge Avenue, with our old St. Pat’s home in the background. Photos by Hans Holznagel

Our Nov. 21–Dec. 7 performances of Jesus Christ Superstar are at West Side United Church of Christ, West 38th Street and Bridge Avenue, Cleveland, across from our longtime home, the St. Patrick’s Club Building. While the church is familiar to some of us – its basement has hosted our children’s programs and many benefit rehearsals – this is our first time upstairs, in the sanctuary. Here are some tips about what to expect.

  • Free parking is available in the St. Pat’s lot at West 38th Street and Bridge Avenue and on neighboring streets. Nearby spaces will fill up rapidly, though, so allow yourself time to find a parking space and walk.
  •  Come in at the church’s Bridge Avenue entrance. There you’ll be welcomed at our ticket table. If you bought tickets in advance, simply give your name there and your tickets will be waiting. Any unsold tickets will also be sold there at the door. Cash, check, VISA and MasterCard are accepted.

    Look for this banner at the corner of West 38th and Bridge. That parking lot in the background is available, but expect it to fill up fast.

    There’s a “Superstar” banner on the corner of the West Side UCC building at West 38th and Bridge. The parking lot in the background, across West 38th, is available, but expect it to fill up fast.

  • Seating is in wooden church pews. If you have a reserved Star Seat, you will find a specific pew marked with the name of your party. All other seating is general admission. Please work with our ushers to make room for everyone!
  • The site is accessible to wheelchair users and people with mobility difficulties. Patrons needing to use the chair lift leading to the sanctuary should mention it when entering. Our house management staff will assist you.
  • Food and drink will be limited. We’re grateful to the people of West Side UCC for hosting us and we support them in preserving the beauty of their historic worship space. That’s why we’re offering only bottled water at our concession stand before the show and at intermission – and why we ask you not to bring other food or beverages into the space. We’ll all miss the wonderful baked goods that have been offered at our concession stand for decades. They’ll be back next year!

Tickets are available in advance online; or by calling 216-961-6391 weekdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; or by coming to our business office, 6516 Detroit Ave., Suite 9, during those hours.

— Hans Holznagel

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.

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Near West Theatre’s community theater production of

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Lyrics by Tim Rice       Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber


‘Superstar’ and age appropriateness

JCSshowimagelargeWe at Near West Theatre have cautioned that Jesus Christ Superstar contains intense scenes that may be disturbing to young children. Here is more information for those deciding whether their young people should be in the audience.

The show focuses on Jesus of Nazareth and the crowds and characters who surround him in the last seven days of his life. In Christian scriptures and in this rock opera, violence is part of the story: not only mocking, ridicule and verbal abuse, but also arrest, physical beating and ultimately execution and death. Near West Theatre’s version of Jesus Christ Superstar portrays this violence without visible blood or gore, but nonetheless just as fully and passionately as all other moods and aspects of the story. Like all parts of the show, the violent ones are supported and intensified by lighting, sound, video and other special effects (including a loud and realistic gunshot) and an energetic rock score played by a live, amplified band.

It is not a story without hope. Love, support, beauty and deep humanity are all part of Jesus Christ Superstar as well. Children as young as 7 years old are part of our cast, but we have spent significant time over a two-month period of community-building and rehearsals helping them understand the story and the reasons for what they are portraying. Is the show appropriate for your children? We leave that decision to you, the adults in their lives. For those wishing to do internet research, we recommend topics such as the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, and power and execution in the Roman Empire.

Tickets are $20 for a reserved Star Seat that helps support the theater’s art and mission, $10 for adult general admission, and $8 for children’s general admission (ages 12 and under). They are available online anytime; by phone at 216-961-6391 weekdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; or by coming to our business office, 6516 Detroit Ave., Suite 9, during those hours. Any tickets not sold in advance are available at the performance site, West Side United Church of Christ, 3800 Bridge Ave., starting one hour before each performance. — Hans Holznagel

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.

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Near West Theatre’s community theater production of

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Lyrics by Tim Rice       Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber


‘Superstar’ starts transforming church space

Cast members give Director Bob Navis Jr. (standing in background) a little chaos. Photos by Hans Holznagel

Cast members show Director Bob Navis Jr. (standing, background) a little chaos. Photos by Hans Holznagel

Director Bob Navis Jr. called out from the pews of West Side United Church of Christ to the actors poised in every part of the sanctuary that was doubling as a theater wing. “This time I want you to find reasons inside yourself to make the stakes higher,” he told them as they prepared to improvise a high-energy crowd scene again. “This is not a quiet, private journey. That’s not what this scene is about and that’s not what the music is saying. I want to see chaos.” Musical Director Ian LeRoy hit the rehearsal piano and on they came, kids, teens and adults, groups at a time, encountering each other in aisles, on steps and atop platforms. Noise and action reigned. On Wednesday evening, Oct. 1, just two weeks into rehearsals, this grand sanctuary was well on its way to becoming the stage for Jesus Christ Superstar.

Musical Director Ian LeRoy (left) and Director Bob Navis Jr. (lower center) work with actors already using the first of temporary platforms.

Musical Director Ian LeRoy (left) and Director Bob Navis Jr. (lower center) work with actors — some already up on the first of temporary platforms.

Having spent initial rehearsals focusing on music, movement and ensemble-building exercises, and with principal roles now cast (see updated list below), actors are beginning to use just about every inch of this tall, arching sanctuary built by German Protestants in 1866. Temporary platforms and step units will help the cast fill that vertical space, adding visibility and dramatic effect. The show runs for nine performances, Nov. 21 through Dec. 7 at the church, 3800 Bridge Ave. (at West 38th St.), Cleveland. Tickets — $20 reserved Star Seats, $10 adult general admission and $8 general admission for 12 and under — are available online anytime or by calling 216-961-6391 weekdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Dec. 4 performance will be interpreted by the American Sign Language troupe, The HeArd. –– Hans Holznagel

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[UPDATE, Oct. 10: Five more men, veterans of NWT shows, are needed to complete the cast. Interested? Call Director Bob Navis Jr. at 216-281-6879, or Assistant Director Kelcie Dugger at 216-961-9750.]

Near West Theatre’s community theater production of

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Lyrics by Tim Rice       Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Cast: Felix Albino, Edie Barcelona, Angie Bendahan, Raymond Boyd, Jeffrey E. Braun (King Herod), Sara Danielle Chapman (Simon Zealotes), Bridget Chebo (Mary Magdalene), Roger Connors, Kevin Conroy (Caiaphas), Carlos Cruz (Jesus of Nazareth), Sharron DeCosta (Maid by the Fire), Lauren Dockery (Annas), Angela Galarza (Old Man), Venchise Glenn, Lindsay Hajostek, Hannah Horton, Hillary Horton, Corinne Howery, Sophie Hull, Angellise Irizarry, Rachel Johanek, Louis Johnson II, Kevin Joseph Kelly (Pontius Pilate), Meg Kilbane, Bryen Kilbane, Sabrina Kim, Mike Knobloch, Jonas Kukelhan, Christine Larson, Elliot Lockshine, Roger Lowe (Roman Soldier), Amaya Moore, George Morgan (Judas Iscariot), Finn O’Malia, Jocelyn Perkins, Aaron Phillips (Peter), Mary Prucha, Eric Ritter, Daniel Ross, Lillian Ross, Jennifer Ryan (Priest), Brandon Schumacker, Cole Tarantowski, Nora van Lier, Piet van Lier, Kyanie Vazquez, Connie Wynn, Lawrence Young (Priest), Bob Zombar (Priest).

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


‘Superstar’ cast announced, volunteers sought

JCS publicity imageA record number of children, teens and adults – 118 of them,  including 68 newcomers! – turned out this month to audition for Near West Theatre’s fall 2014 production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Director Bob Navis Jr. broke the casting news to all of them by e-mail on Friday, Sept. 12. A postal letter was also mailed the previous day. Principal roles will be assigned after further callback auditions are held between now and the start of community-building activities and rehearsals on Sept. 21. The entire ensemble is listed below.

Picking an intergenerational cast of 58 people is a delight, but also bittersweet when 60 more hopeful people have to be told no. “We’re grateful to the actors of all ages who brought such energy and vulnerability to the auditions,” Navis said. “Several went out of their way to tell us the audition itself was a great experience, and we’re always delighted to hear that. Even a single night of auditions should be a way of carrying out our mission. The turnout was one more sign of vitality as we look ahead to the future in our new theater.”

“Thank you, NWT, for affecting change in me in just one night,” wrote one adult who auditioned. “I haven’t felt this ‘OK-to-be-all-me’ in a really long time. Even if tonight’s audition is as far as my JCS journey goes, it was just like Bob Navis said he hoped it would be for us all: a special, stand-alone experience.”

“Well, I didn’t chicken out last night,” wrote another. “I went to a very different audition where, for two-and-a-half hours, I had no idea what was going to be thrown at me next. At one point, Kelcie Dugger, the assistant director, said to me, ‘That was so great! I forgot your voice could do that!’ That meant the world to this middle-aged ‘teen’ who is still trying to bust out of his shell.”

Navis is particularly pleased with the balance of ages, genders and neighborhoods that were represented at auditions for the rock opera, to be staged at West Side UCC this November and December. The Superstar cast members, diverse in racial identity, range in age from 7 to 57. Just under two-thirds of them live in the City of Cleveland; the rest are from surrounding communities, mostly inner-ring suburbs. There are 16 girls and 12 boys, ages 17 and under; and 15 men and 15 women, ages 18 and over.

Now Near West has backstage and front-of-house Superstar roles to fill. Click here to learn more and volunteer. Also, tickets are now on sale for performances, Nov. 21—Dec. 7, at 216-961-6391 (weekdays, 11 to 4) or online anytime, here. — Hans Holznagel

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Near West Theatre’s community theater production of

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

Lyrics by Tim Rice       Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Cast: Felix Albino, Edie Barcelona, Angie Bendahan, Raymond Boyd, Jeffrey E. Braun, Sara Danielle Chapman, Bridget Chebo, Kevin Conroy, Carlos Cruz, Sharron DeCosta, Lauren Dockery, Cole Emerine, Angela Galarza, Venchise Glenn, Lindsay Hajostek, Chris Holovacs, Hannah Horton, Hillary Horton, Corinne Howery, Sophie Hull, Angellise Irizarry, Rachel Johanek, Louis Johnson II, Kevin Joseph Kelly, Meg Kilbane, Bryen Kilbane, Sabrina Kim, Alice King, Jason Knauer, Mike Knobloch, Jonas Kukelhan, Christine Larson, Elliot Lockshine, Shannon McPeek-Korth, Amaya Moore, George Morgan, Finn O’Malia, Dante Palmer, Jocelyn Perkins, Aaron Phillips, Jesse Phillips, Mary Prucha, Eric Ritter, Daniel Ross, Lillian Ross, Nathan Rutz, Jennifer Ryan, Brandon Schumacker, Tonya Smith, Darius Stubbs, Cole Tarantowski, Ava Trevino, Nora van Lier, Kyanie Vazquez, Colin Wheeler, Connie Wynn, Lawrence Young, Bob Zombar.

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing operating support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.


In the spotlight: NWT actor Carlos Cruz

Carlos Cruz

Carlos Cruz

When a friend asked him to tag along to auditions 2003, Carlos Cruz did – and unexpectedly wound up with the lead role in Near West Theatre’s summer youth production of Jesus Christ Superstar. A second-generation Puerto Rican, Carlos was born here but split his childhood between Cleveland and Puerto Rico. He graduated from Lincoln West High School, having attended there only during his senior year. Since his NWT debut, Carlos has been involved in theater here and as far away as New York City. In early 2014, he moved back to Cleveland and participated in Move On! Now he’s planning to audition for Superstar for a second time.

Q: How did you first get involved with Near West Theatre?

A: I was raised Pentecostal and always loved the music in church, but when I was no longer allowed to actively participate, I found myself searching for a new place to make music. During my senior year of high school I was involved with a production of The Wiz, and a friend from the show asked me to come audition with him at NWT for moral support. I said “OK, but I’m not doing the show.” When I walked in, I thought, “Oh, no – I am walking right back out of here.” In that particular audition group, I saw predominantly people who were not of color, so that intimidated me. I auditioned anyway. In my wildest dreams, I never thought my first role would be Jesus Christ in Jesus Christ Superstar, but Bob took a chance on me. I went in there blind, and it turned out to be one of the most life-changing experiences.

Carlos Cruz in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2003.

Carlos Cruz in Jesus Christ Superstar, 2003.

Q: Wow, you played Jesus your first time out? What was that like?

A: It was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. It pushed me to extreme limits. The cast was just the most amazing cast that I ever could have worked with. The experience was gut-wrenching, emotional, just really inspirational. It was awesome – challenging as hell – for me as an individual who comes from a very worship-and-gospel background. To be confronted with some of these things in an in-your-face, doesn’t-let-down rock opera was just overwhelming and daunting. When I was told that I was going to be Jesus we were already well into the rehearsal process. My immediate reaction was, “No, you have the wrong one, choose someone with more experience.” But Bob saw something in me. The experience brought the best out of me, and it was a success because of what we all did.

Q: Are you auditioning for this year’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar?

A: Yes, I’m auditioning for it, but not expecting too much. For me, this is just coming full circle. A lot has happened since I first auditioned. My last NWT performance before Move On! was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2004. I left to do theater in other places; I studied vocal performance at Cleveland State University, went to New York City, and moved back to Puerto Rico for a while. There were always people from Near West who reached out.

Q: What do you have to say to others who might be considering auditioning for Jesus Christ Superstar?

A: Go audition! If there’s one show you want to experience, it’s Jesus Christ Superstar, especially at Near West Theatre. Actors have fewer limitations because Near West is open-minded in their casting. Near West is creativity, and I love it. They are going to do amazing things with this show. The fact that it will be performed in the sanctuary of a church is very exciting.

Q: You came back for Move On! What was it like saying goodbye to St. Patrick’s?

A: When I heard about Move On!, I had to come back. I owe NWT a debt of gratitude for everything they’ve done to push me along in the arts. It was a wonderful opportunity to come back and see everyone that I’d been missing, and to meet all these people who I should have crossed paths with, but for some reason I never had. It was a mixture of making new friends, revisiting old ones and getting back into the game as well. I feel blessed that I got to do that.

It was very bittersweet; that’s the word that continually keeps coming to mind. You never know how attached you are to a place until you walk back in and all these memories flood your mind. First kisses – I had my first kiss there; I fell in love for the first time there. I also had some falling-outs and some intense dramatic experiences. It was sweet in that I could give back to NWT a little of what it gave me and better in that some memories that came back were overwhelming, but Move On! was insanely amazing. To learn that many songs in that short a time, and the amount of people on stage – well, that was just the magic of NWT.

— Julie Cajigas

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Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from the Ohio Arts CouncilCuyahoga Arts and Culture, and Greater Cleveland Community Shares, and for special support from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northeastern Ohio for equipment used by young people in technical workshops and other backstage experiences.