Trio reunites in Edgerton's 'Jesus Christ Superstar'

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Ann Fiore
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

EDGERTON—Like the robin announces the coming of spring, the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” heralds the Easter season.

Jim Tropp has directed the 1970s passion play by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice multiple times, the last time in Janesville in 2010.

“I know it like the back of my hand,” he said.

A director can do only so much to make the show different each time. But the “Superstar” that opens April 18 at the Edgerton Performing Arts Center will be different—not only because of the modern set, but also because of the returning leads.

The show resurrects the 2010 team of Tropp as director, Rich Hoffman as Jesus and Ryan Rammelt as Judas. With their prior experience together, it's a combination Tropp loves.

Jesus and Judas “are very demanding vocal roles,” Tropp said. “Both of those guys love those roles.”

“He's a rocker,” Tropp said of Hoffman. “This is his style of vocals. He's got that '70s rockin' voice, and he's got a range that's just insane. He sings it the way Andrew Lloyd Weber wrote it.”

Hoffman and Rammelt met at auditions for “Superstar” back in 2010. Neither had ever performed in the show, but both knew the music and had experience singing in rock bands. They wound up getting the two rock bands. They wound up getting the two lead roles.

Since then, the men have performed together several times but always hoped they could revisit “Superstar.”

“We've been talking about how much we want to do the show again because we've grown so much in terms of acting and performing,” Rammelt said.

The trick was getting Hoffman, who had moved to Green Bay, to rehearsals. (He attended the first one and will return Saturday for a daylong rehearsal.)

“It's just such an important musical and role to me that I wanted to do it again,” Hoffman said.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is loosely based on Gospel accounts of the last week of Jesus' life. It departs from the Bible in exploring the relationship between Jesus and Judas, who is dissatisfied with the political direction Jesus is taking his disciples.

Rammelt said his job is to portray Judas as more than just the betrayer of Jesus. As Rammelt sees it, Judas was a conflicted man who thought he was sparing lives by giving Jesus up to the authorities.

“I get great satisfaction from portraying troubled characters and having to justify what they did,” said Rammelt, who also played the embattled Dr. Jekyll in “Jekyll & Hyde.”

For his part, Hoffman is focused on personalizing Jesus' struggle with what was happening to him—to “help the audience feel his pain.”

The action will unfold in front of a city skyline—Tropp calls it a “corporate” theme—with simple, modern costumes and props.

Hoffman's drives from Green Bay aren't the only sacrifice he's making. As lead singer in the classic rock band Almighty Vinyl, he's up for male vocalist of the year at the Wisconsin Area Music Awards show April 27.

That's the same day as the closing performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

“I'd rather be doing the musical,” Hoffman said.

The cast also includes many familiar local actors as well as Gregory Brumfield, a Madison-based actor and opera singer.

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