The Canadian actor Paul Nolan has tackled some hard roles before, but playing Jesus might be one of the most difficult.
Nolan stars in the new Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar – which opens tonight – and in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he says the musical is “in my blood.”
Despite the fact that this is Nolan’s third time playing the part, he said, “It doesn’t mean it’s still not a lot of work. It’s a very daunting thing to go up there and know you’re going to die, hoping you’re not. The things [Jesus] had to do in the last week of his life I think are very hard to do. Some nights it doesn’t feel so lonely. Some nights it’s awful.”
The 33 year-old has been a member of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, so he knows the challenges of acting. He said, “Shakespeare is kind of like going to Ballet Barre. You really find out that your body is actually not that strong. In Shakespeare, you find out that a lot of your acting muscles are not that strong. You can’t fake it.”
Although he has transferred back and forth between dramatic roles and ones in musical theater, Nolan finds the two genres to be similar. He said, “Shakespeare uses different muscles than Moliere or Shaw or Pinter. Shakespeare and musical theater are not so different, though. In Shakespeare it’s not up to you to decide where the meter is. Good musical theater, like Sondheim and Bernstein, is the same way.”
Nolan notes that his main goal while playing Jesus is to protect his 4-octave range voice. He said he would “try not to talk too much.”
For more Jesus Christ Superstar, check out our interview with Judas himself, Josh Young!