“No, But We’ve Seen It Done”–A Chat with Paul and Angie Lowe about Jesus Christ Superstar

So, if you’re reading this during the week that I’m originally posting it, you’ll probably know that it’s Easter week.

Why am I releasing this particular podcast episode for Easter Week? Because, for most of my life, and the lives of many of my musical theater affiliated friends, this week means one big thing.

No, not multiple trips to church. No, not chocolate egg anticipation. No, not a viewing of The Ten Commandments.

It’s time to listen to the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack.

I was born in February of 1979. Later that summer, my father, Terry Felus, who would have been just shy of 30 years old, conducted the pit and played the Hammond organ for a community theater production of the show. For the rest of his life, he considered that one of his crowning achievements in his long career as a musician. I grew up listening to him tell stories about that show, and listening to his cassette recording of the production until it very literally fell apart. 

I’ve seen multiple performances of Jesus Christ Superstar over the years, both touring companies and local shows. But even though I have no conscious memories of the version that my dad conducted, it will always be the definitive production in my heart, the one that all others are compared against.

So today I wanted to chat with the directors of that production, Paul and Angie Lowe.

(You can stream our chat via the embed here, on Anchor, or pretty much anywhere else you source your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Google Podcasts.)

Paul and Angie are essentially family to me. They were also teachers for many decades at Lake Central High School in St. John, Indiana. During the weekdays, Paul taught speech and Angie taught French, and then on afternoons and weekends, they were heads of the theater program, known as the Lake Central Theatre Guild. As you’ll hear them elaborate in the course of the episode, they expanded LCTG’s program in the early 1970s to include former graduates and members of the local theater scene in their summer community theater productions. Nearly a quarter century after they first directed it in 1979, they revived Jesus Christ Superstar in the summer of 2003 as one of the final productions in the old high school theater. Today, many years now after their retirement from teaching, they retain the LCTG initials by way of their new company, L’arc en Ciel Theatre Group, a dinner theater based out of Great Oaks Banquet Hall in Cedar Lake, Indiana.

In our wide-ranging conversation on Jesus Christ Superstar, we discuss their creative workaround for using microphones with cords in the days before community theater companies could afford wireless mics, the challenge of holding a follow spot steady while you’re sobbing your eyes out, how a key member of the pit band was in a terrible motorcycle accident on his way to the theater but played the whole show anyway, the controversy about the 1979 production in several local churches, and how the skills that one techie developed behind the scenes eventually landed him in a nuclear submarine in the navy.

SHOW NOTES

The L’arc en Ciel Theatre Group website can be found online here

The original Jesus Christ Superstar album was released in 1970; it wasn’t staged on Broadway until October 1971.

Michael Berglund played Judas.

“See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!” (Galatians 6:11)

Amtech Pro Audio

Randy Noojin played Herod.

Fr. Ildephonse Skorup O.F.M. was a great supporter of the Lake Central Theatre Guild. He passed away on January 23, 2020.

Riley Knight was a gifted tenor and performed in countless LCTG productions spanning several decades, including playing Jesus in the 2003 LCTG production of Superstar. You can hear a clip of him singing “Anthem” from Chess here. He was accidentally killed in December 2013 when he stopped to help another car that was stuck in the snow on the side of the road. You can read about the incident in the Chicago Tribune here.

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