‘Superstar’ rises at La Jolla

Broadway move not yet certain for tuner

It’s increasingly likely that “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be added to the list of Des McAnuff-helmed productions to launch at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse prior to hitting Broadway.

Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where McAnuff is artistic director, announced that its critically acclaimed, sold-out production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice tuner will transfer to La Jolla’s Mandell Weiss Theater for a stint that runs Nov. 18-Dec. 31.

McAnuff stagings of “Big River,” “The Who’s Tommy,” “Jersey Boys” and “700 Sundays” all played La Jolla and all went on to New York, but a Broadway bow for “Superstar” isn’t yet a sure thing.

Stratford’s revival of “Superstar” attracted Rialto buzz soon after its opening, when both Lloyd Webber and Rice came up to see it separately, with Lloyd Webber later pronouncing it “the best acted version of the show I have seen in the 40 years of its existence.”

But as McAnuff told Variety, “There’s been a lot of interest, but we’re a long way from entering the halls of commerce, not just yet.” He’s decided to test the American waters for the show by bringing it to the theater where he served as a.d. for two terms (1983-94 and 2001-07).

“It’s a bit strange to be bringing a show to La Jolla instead of taking one from there,” McAnuff admitted, “but my close relationship with both theaters will make this possible.”

Christopher Ashley, the current a.d. of La Jolla, said, “We have been looking for an opportunity to bring Des back home to the playhouse.”

The Weiss Theater is very close in size, configuration and facilities to the Avon Theater in Stratford where “Superstar” is running. Both theaters bear a resemblance to most standard-sized Broadway musical houses.

The cast, all from the Stratford company, are largely unknown outside Canada except for the thesp playing Pontius Pilate, Brent Carver (“Kiss of the Spider Woman,” for which he received a Tony, and “Parade”), and Bruce Dow, who plays Herod, and has appeared in New York in “Jane Eyre” and the Susan Stroman revival of “The Music Man.”

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