The University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television (TFTV) recently opened our production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. The production, directed and choreographed by TFTV Assoc. Professor Christie Kerr, with musical direction by Asst. Professor Jamie Reed, opened on Nov. 15 in the Tornabene Theatre.
“I have chosen to set this piece in the modern day, and have discovered that the themes of the show are very applicable to the world today. I believe our contemporary look at these characters will illustrate the more human aspects of them against the historic writings of the Bible,” says Kerr.
Helping bring Kerr’s vision to life is a creative team and crew made up of students, faculty, staff, and industry professionals. We spoke with costume designer Cass Frazier to hear her insights on the production.
Cass Frazier, the Costume Designer on Jesus Christ Superstar, is in her final semester as an MFA Costume Design student. Previously, she received her bachelor’s degree in Theatre Design and Technology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Her recent ART credits include costume designing both Living Dead in Denmark and Polaroid Stories and assistant designing Three Sisters and Head Over Heels. Apart from her work with the University of Arizona, she has worked as a costume assistant for various films in Atlanta, GA – recent companies include Netflix, NBCUniversal, and Georgia Public Broadcasting.
What was your inspiration when designing for Jesus Christ Superstar?
This is a loaded question. So many things inspired me. It ranges from the power that concert culture has over fashion to “that beaded curtain I saw in a shop window that one time”. Every single character has their own collection of inspirations. And actually, I think that’s why this was such a fun production to design. There are A LOT of pop culture references in the costumes for this show – most of which I combined with more historical elements in order to keep it within the world. I challenge people to try and spot them!
What elements are you hoping stand out the most to audiences?
Colors! This past summer, I challenged myself to learn more about color theory, undertones, the way in which colors show up in our environment, and how they make us feel. I really tried to integrate that into my design. One example of this from the show is that autumnal colors are very comforting to me, so they show up quite a bit in the costumes for Jesus and his apostles. And when Jesus loses his warm-toned coat, that visual comfort seems to disappear – something that I felt was very important to incorporate.
What has been your favorite part of designing for Jesus Christ Superstar?
The typical design process for a production can be a bit tedious. You’re not always going to feel passionate about every production, every character, every design. Work is work – you know? But I feel like I got so lucky with Jesus Christ Superstar. It fit so comfortably in my design preferences that, to be quite honest, I don’t think a single moment lacked inspiration or eagerness. I am just as excited to open the production as I was the day that it was assigned to me months ago. It’s fulfilling. I can’t think of a better way to finish my MFA.
Do you have a favorite costume?
Such a hard question! I feel like the obvious answer would be any of the renowned characters – Jesus, Judas, Pilate, Caiaphas, King Herod – and it’s true, I’m so happy with all of their costumes. Though, I would say the ensemble was the most satisfying of my designs to come to life. The ensemble’s costumes defined the world in which the rest of the characters live. It was the first thing I designed for this production and, in my opinion, it’s what gives the show a visual sense of cohesion. The balance of individualism and unity I incorporated into their costumes is something that I’m pretty proud of.
Jesus Christ Superstar will have performances through Dec. 3 in the Tornabene Theatre. Visit theatre.arizona.edu for tickets.
FREE TICKETS to the production are available for all college and high school students. For details, visit azart.fyi/freetftvtix. The free student ticket program is provided by the College of Fine Arts via support from the Office of the Provost.