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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Summer Place Theatre kicks off 50th Anniversary season with Jesus Christ Superstar


The Summer Place, Inc. has been Naperville’s community theatre since 1966.

When founder Don “Doc” Shanower was Dean of Theatre at North Central College, he created the theatre company to keep his students sharp during the summer break. Though its home is now Naperville Central High School’s auditorium, Summer Place continues to produce plays and musicals for the community fifty years later.

This 50th Anniversary season is dedicated to the memory of Doc Shanower, and they are thanking the community for fifty years of support by producing two fan favorites, starting with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

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Many people remember their first Superstar experience, whether it was their first time seeing the stage production, listening to the album, or watching the movie with Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson. Summer Place’s June production may sound like you remember, but with a new look.

“There are elements to this city that are industrial and elements that are natural,” said director Amanda Strolia, a graduate of North Central College. “The goal was to bring the two together: show a society divided between order and revolution.”

To accomplish the industrial look, the Naperville Central High School stage will be transformed into a dystopian city of cement and rebar. The audience will know Jesus and his followers from their muted colors and torn and draped clothing, while their opposition sports the tailored, glitzy fashion of the upper crust. King Herod and his entourage are as flashy as you remember, but with a jazzy twist.

The real star of the show is Webber’s score, which incorporates rock instruments into the classic opera orchestra. The show has no dialogue, and the songs just keep coming.

“It has been a wonderful and unique thing to play with. The music is the driver of the show,” Strolia said. The heart of the action is the conflict between Jesus, played by Eric Downs of Oswego, and his right-hand man, Judas, played by Chicago-native Aaron Reese Mitchell. Caught in the middle is Mary Magdalene, who will be played by Laura Curran of Batavia. Curran’s understudy, Tina Boffa of Naperville, plays Mary on Saturday, June 25.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs weekends from June 17 to June 26. Showtimes are 7:30PM on Fridays and Saturdays and 3PM on Sundays. Tickets are on sale on Summer Place’s website, www.summerplacetheatre.org, and can also be purchased at the box office before the show. Tickets are $18 for adults and $14 for seniors and students. Children under 11 are $10, but this show might not be suitable for young children.

Ticket holders for Superstar can trade in their ticket for a discounted season ticket at the box office.

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