Company ready for debut with `Jesus Christ Superstar'

New Top Hat Theater Productions putting hit Broadway musical in modern setting

Arundel Live

Arts and entertainment in Anne Arundel County

July 22, 2005|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Top Hat Theater Productions, the new theater company launched by Jeffrey Glenn Hitaffer and Jamie Hanna, is in final rehearsals of Jesus Christ Superstar, scheduled to open Aug. 5 at Chesapeake Arts Center's 904-seat Main Theatre in Brooklyn Park.

At a rehearsal last week, Hitaffer and co-director Hanna seemed to have everything under control. Absent was the chaos usually encountered at soon-to-open productions.

Reflecting on how the company's name was chosen, Hitaffer said, "It's a name to signify the class image that we wish to project by creating excellence in every aspect of theater. We won't focus only on singing, dancing or acting but all three, plus often-overlooked technical aspects like precision lighting and sound engineering."

Accomplished stage performers, the partners have an impressive list of credits and experience in choreography. Hitaffer has directed at least three successful local stage productions.

"The idea isn't to slap together some sets and put on a show, but to strategically plan, educate and perform with all our hearts." Hitaffer said. "Some of our sets are re-creations of dreams Jamie had. Maybe that's what happens when you put over 100 hours of joint thought into a production before even casting it. Now my main goal is to make sure my cast finds it an enjoyable experience, because that will make the audience enjoy the show."

In rehearsal, the talented cast seemed dedicated to providing an enjoyable show. New York stage veteran Christian Jones, who recently starred as Woof in a national touring production of Hair, will play Jesus Christ. Local favorite Joe Rose, who starred in Summer Garden's memorable Superstar, will play Judas.

Seen last season in the title role of Gypsy at Summer Garden, singer/actress Tiffany Shannon will play Mary Magdalene. The versatile Jud Wegner, last seen in 2nd Star's hit Damn Yankees as Joe Hardy, will play Pontius Pilate.

Jesus Christ Superstar, which debuted in 1971, was the first major work of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was written when he was 23 and lyricist Tim Rice was 26, and began as a hit record. Superstar evolved into a rock opera that attracted Broadway producer Robert Stigwood.

Its October 1971 Broadway opening was met by opposition from religious groups that objected to the retelling of the last seven days of Christ, here recast as a hip Jesus. The resulting publicity and media hype made the show a box-office hit.

Although controversy disappeared from Superstar years ago, it might be generated by Top Hat's production, which will have a modern setting and "be unlike the current movie release and not follow Webber's vision," according to Hitaffer.

"We've built this show on the foundation that the world has existed without Jesus until today," Hitaffer said.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Aug. 5 to 14. Call 410-636-6597 or visit www. for tickets. For more information on Top Hat Theater Productions, go to

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.