As Jesus Christ Superstar readies for its March 22 opening night, understudy Jeremy Kushnier has stepped into the pivotal role of Judas Iscariot for press preview performances on March 20 and both shows on March 21. So-called "first night" critics had been invited to review those shows, in addition to a March 17 performance at the Neil Simon Theatre. Josh Young, who originated the role of Judas at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, performed on March 17 but has been out for two days due to an illness. No word yet if Young will be able to return for the show's opening performance.
“It was extremely unfortunate timing that Josh became sick over the past week," a statement from the show's press representative said. "He has been with JCS since its inception in Canada and was saddened that this happened at such a crucial time and rendered him unable to perform. Josh is waiting for his doctor to clear him to rejoin the cast. Nothing brings him more joy than performing the role of Judas with this amazing company of actors and he cannot wait to return to his work.”
Kushnier is best known for originating the role of Ren McCormack in the Broadway adaptation of Footloose. He has also appeared on Broadway in Rent. He has also toured with Next to Normal, Jersey Boys and Aida. Jesus Christ Superstar marks Young's Broadway debut. His Stratford credits include Grapes of Wrath and Evita. He has also toured with Les Miserables.
This isn't the first time the musical has faced a last minute Judas mix-up. Shortly before the 2000 Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar began its preview period, current The Voice contestant and American Idiot veteran Tony Vincent replaced Jason Pebworth in the role.
Directed by Des McAnuff, Jesus Christ Superstar features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The production also stars Paul Nolan in the title role and Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene.