New Production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Hits DMV

Nicholas Edwards Stars in a Cast Dominated by Actors of Colors

Nicholas Edwards
Nicholas Edwards stars as Jesus in a new production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," the iconic musical that tells the story of Jesus during his final week of life on stage now at the Signature Theatre in Arlington. (Margot Schulman)

The Signature Theatre, Arlington’s award-winning company known for producing contemporary plays and reinventing classic musicals, closes out its 27th season with one of the most beloved plays to ever hit and dominate Broadway — a rock opera with unforgettable songs that include “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and the upbeat title song, “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

And in the lead role for the epic musical, the director, Joe Calarco, has tagged Nicholas Edwards, a new face at the Signature — a young, Black actor with roots in the Dominican Republic. He says he never imagined having the opportunity to portray Jesus of Nazareth and describes the experience as “a dream come true.”

“I’ve always had a problem seeing Jesus portrayed by a white man with blue eyes since he was from Jerusalem and would more accurately resemble someone from the Middle East,” said Edwards who credits his high school circle of close friends for persuading him to go after a role in “South Pacific” and discovering that he loved acting.

“With Jesus cast as a man of color, it humanizes the show and makes the story more relatable to what people in the world look like today,” he said. “In our production, you’ll see that this story is about a group of people searching for their faith. Then this man named Jesus comes along with new ideas for how things should be. Our show is about today and today’s people. I think audiences will listen more carefully, to every moment and will discover that ours is unlike the show they’ve probably seen several times before.”

He laughed when asked if he has the support of his family, quickly replying that his mother has always told him to “dream big.”

“She came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic and has achieved an amazing career in corporate America. She’s always rooting for me, telling me not to ever settle. Like many other youth from families of color, my support system is the reason I’m here today,” he said.

Singing has always come easy for Edwards, with acting coming as an afterthought. He says he realized early on that he could study acting and dancing and add them to his arsenal of skills. But it wouldn’t be until right before the start of his junior year that he received the call and confirmation for which he had waited so long.

“I had started doubting myself, wondering if acting was really for me,” he said. “Many of my friends were auditioning and booking gigs. I had posted several videos online and a director in Portland had seen them. He needed someone to replace an actor in “Kiss of the Spiderwoman,” and I had done the show before. Someone wanted me to come save the day. Wow! It was my first professional job and I realized that I could do it.”

Edwards notes that the theater, unlike Hollywood, offers significantly more opportunities for people of color although things still aren’t 100 percent.

“Boundaries continue to be broken. ‘Hamilton’ had a lot to do with that. Now, we’re getting chances beyond traditional roles written for us [people of color] — real parts, real stories, people struggling — roles that require so much out of you, emotionally and physically. Even in this show, the director, who’s simply amazing, has put something together that’s totally outside of the box. He’s bending the rules with a completely diverse cast of mostly young actors like me. I knew this was going to be something special the first day of rehearsal. And the great thing is we’re all here for the art.”

Join Nicholas and his cast members in a production that continues Signature’s history of presenting the classics in fresh ways. Call 703-820-9771 for tickets or visit www.sigtheatre.org for more information. The play runs through July 2.

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About D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor 165 Articles

Award-winning journalist, book editor, voice-over specialist and author with 17 years in the industry. Currently an education and religion beat reporter for The Washington Informer. But I also tackle local (D.C. and Maryland) politics, entertainment, business and health articles to maintain my edge.

Born and raised in Motown and a staunch Wolverine – that is a graduate of the University of Michigan, I left corporate America (IBM) to pursue my passion for writing, accepting a beat reporter’s gig under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. I continued to hone my craft at N’DIGO Magapaper, Windy City Times and The Wednesday Journal, all in Chicagoland; the Atlanta Voice and The Miami Times. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen twice as the Feature Writer of the Year by the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Later, as the senior editor of one of the country’s oldest Black-owned newspapers, The Miami Times, I helped my staff bring home the NNPA’s highest honor – Publication of the Year, 2001. That same year I picked up first and second place awards for news and feature writing, respectively, also from the NNPA.

Today I’m based in the nation’s capital where I’m honored to serve as the editor for The Washington Informer. Recognizing the importance of education, I’ve earned two master’s degrees from Emory University, Summa Cum Laude and Princeton Theological Seminary, majoring in theology and philosophy.

If I can slow down, I may actually complete and publish a collection of essays I’ve been working on for many years, “Growing up Motown,” sharing childhood memories of experiences with musical legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight and Take Six. My favorite foods: spinach, lasagna, pancakes and Oysters Rockefeller. My mom, 86, always my “best friend” and “cheerleader,” now lives with me and she brings me great joy. I’m a fiercely protective yet encouraging father and grandfather always down for traveling, shopping or celebrating the natural beauty of God’s world. I live by the following words: “Less is more” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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