Josh Young accomplished one thing during the four-month revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar” at the Neil Simon Theatre that history could not pull off in 2,000 years: he made Judas Iscariot a likable fan-favorite, earning a Tony nomination in the process.
A Pennsylvania native who made his mark on the theater world at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada, Young took to Twitter with religious zeal during the musical's run, chatting with fans about the acting profession and ruminating over life’s pressing decisions: “To chop off the Judas hair or keep it come Sunday? That is the question.”
With “Superstar” poised to end its run this weekend, we spoke with Young about a variety of subjects, including Tweets, the Tonys and his new album, “Still Dreaming of Paradise.”
NBC4NY: Twitter has become the modern equivalent of the stage door, the place where fans go to communicate with actors.
YOUNG: My life is not that important or interesting, but for some reason fans love to read what Broadway people are doing as a daily routine ... then they re-Tweet it or Tweet back to you. If I were younger, I’d think it was cool if someone I looked up to -- Michael Cerveris or Mandy Patinkin -- were Tweeting where they were having dinner. I’d think: “Awesome. That’s where they eat dinner.”
NBC4NY: What was something you recently Tweeted?
YOUNG: After a show (on a recent) Sunday, I had to drive to Philadelphia, and so I skipped the stage door. So, I Tweeted that I was sorry to my stage door friends. And then I Tweeted again that I was stuck in traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel.
NBC4NY: How do you feel about getting Tweets from people who’ve just seen the show?
YOUNG: I think it’s great, as long as it doesn’t get negative ... and it hasn’t. It actually saves time at the stage door. There’s not so many people asking tons of questions. They just Tweet me, and I respond to their Tweets. ... A lot of them ask if I have tips for up and coming performers. I tend to send them a DM and tell them to ask any specific questions, or I give them my e-mail address. Because I can’t Tweet that kind of information in 140 characters.
NBC4NY You performed a killer “Superstar” at the Tonys, a song that made the Billboard charts in 1971. What memory stands out from the broadcast?
YOUNG: Right before I went out, Ben Vereen announced our number and unfortunately he called the “Stratford Shakespeare Festival” the “Stanford Shakespeare Festival.” Had I been lucky enough to win, I planned on dropping the name “Stratford Shakespeare Festival” a dozen times. I wanted to go out there and correct him, to say “Look, the festival deserves its due.” (When Young lost the Tony for featured actor in a musical to Michael McGrath, it was a matter of hours before he had Tweeted out a photo of himself with the winner: “Couldn’t lose to a nicer guy!”)
NBC4NY: Let’s be superficial: what was the best thing you got in the swag bag?
YOUNG: I Tweeted a photo of it! It was a bacon caramel brownie with Himalayan salt. Oh my god. ... My fiancee enjoyed the shampoo and conditioner.
NBC4NY: Even those of us who aren’t up to speed on our religious texts know Judas isn’t quite the heroic figure. Yet, watching the new Des McAnuff “Superstar,” we got the feeling he was, at least, the show’s protagonist. Does “JCS” ask us to root for Judas?
YOUNG: I don’t think the show asks for that on paper, but I think it’s something that happened in our production. I was trying to make him a good guy. ... There isn’t a lot of information about the person Judas was in any Biblical or ancient text. All you have is some people’s opinions of what he did, or some retelling of what he did. One thing I thought would be interesting -- to make the most of the tension between him and Jesus -- was for him to be the 4 B.C. version of a Rabbinical student, studying the Torah and being a very religious Jew.
NBC4NY: With “Superstar” ending, you’ll turn attention to promotions for the new album, which is available on iTunes. What can we expect?
YOUNG: It had been 6 years since my first album and I had fans asking for a new one. Many were patrons of the Stratford Festival, asking if we had a recording of my “Che” in “Evita” last year, and also if there was one of my Judas in this year’s “JCS.” So, I took a bunch of my favorite songs from all different genres and had them re-orchestrated and re-imagined along with a track from “Evita” (“High Flying Adored”) and “Heaven On Their Minds” from “Superstar,” to satiate those Andrew Lloyd Webber fans.