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28 Apr 2023

Elvie Ellis plays Judas in the national tour of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

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April 28, 2023 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Elvie Ellis

By Kharisma McIlwaine

“Jesus Christ Superstar” has long been recognized as one of the most popular Broadway musicals of all time. The critically acclaimed musical which features lyrics and music by EGOT winners Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, celebrates its 50th anniversary with a reimagined national tour. 

“Jesus Christ Superstar” loosely tells the story of the last week of Jesus Christ’s life, including Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ crucifixion. Directed by Timothy Sheader, the play stars U Arts graduate Jack Hopewell as Jesus, Elvie Ellis as Judas, Faith Jones as Mary, Grant Hodges as Caiphas, Nicholas Hambruch as Pilate and Temple University graduate Kodiak Thompson as Annas. To the delight of audiences in the tri-state area, it returns to Philadelphia for the first time in 14 years. Ellis spoke with the SUN about his journey in musical theater, his role as Judas and about playing one of the most hated characters in history. 

Oklahoma native Elvie Ellis recognized his musical gifts early on. He attended a performing arts middle school and high school where his musical journey began.

“I guess the theater bug bit me when my older brother was in a production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” Because he had the car, I had to sit at rehearsals with him,” Ellis said. “I went to their opening show, and I was totally enamored by the whole thing. After that, I went to every other performance. I did my first musical at school as a freshman.”

Elvie Ellis and the company of the North American tour of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ (Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

Ellis’ first musical was “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” followed by “Big River” and “The Wiz.” After landing lead roles in “The Wiz” and “On the Town,” Ellis knew that he wanted to pursue music professionally.

“When we did “The Wiz,” I was the scarecrow and in “On the Town,” I was this character named Ozzie,” Ellis said. “I was doing that with my friends, and I was already at a performing arts high school.  We were kind of groomed in a way to go into the arts, but up until then I thought I would be a music teacher.”

 Ellis auditioned to be a musical theater major at The University of Oklahoma, but wasn’t accepted into the program. He went on to become a teacher, earning a degree in music education before finding his way back to the theater.

“I stayed dabbling in theater here and there, and eventually I got to a point where I was like, ‘I’m not going to do theater anymore… it’s ok,’” Ellis said. “It was kind of like that ship has sailed. Then I found myself at a random audition. I feel like every performer kind of needs to have a moment where they feel, like, ‘I’ve got to put this thing away for a second.’ Growing up, going to school and all of that, it can easily become your entire life. You live and breathe this one thing, and then you don’t know who you are without it. I’m really grateful that I had that moment of being, like, ‘I need to move on to something else.’ I found other things that I like to do and then found my way back.”

Ellis went on to audition and land a position on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship as a performer. He quickly realized that life on the sea wasn’t for him. After making it back to land, he eventually started doing regional theater before moving to New York at the top of 2020. When the world began reopening after the COVID-19 lockdown, Ellis began auditioning again. One of those auditions led to him booking his first national tour with “Waitress.” He landed the role of Judas in “Jesus Christ Superstar” immediately after —  a dream role.

“Judas is actually one of my dream roles,” Ellis said. “I first encountered the role when I was a sophomore in college when I did this show. We just did a snippet of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and I didn’t even sing the Judas part. Then it became a goal of mine to do the role. I had been singing the songs in my car and in the shower for years just hoping and praying somebody would want to hire me to do it. I honestly thought I would get to do it at a regional theater, which would’ve been great. I never expected that I would get to do it on a national tour. It’s been pretty special to do that.”

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, which directly resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion, made him one of the most hated characters in history. Ellis approaches the character with a different perspective in mind.

Jack Hopewell and Elvie Ellis in the North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. (Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

“I grew up a Christian,” Ellis said. “I’m still a Christian, so I grew up hearing about Judas. It’s basically Satan, then Judas in the Bible when it comes to bad people, but I do remember growing up being very intrigued by the character. I always felt like there has to be more to it than that. People don’t just sell out their best friend and get them killed. 

“As an adult, as I started to find faith for myself, I definitely started thinking more about the circumstances that brought Jesus to the crucifixion,” Ellis continued. “When I started wanting to play this role, I started listening to podcasts and reading articles about it. One of the interesting things that came to light for me was there was a common phrase — ‘Judas betrayed Jesus to the cross’. But, nowhere in the Bible does it say [that] Judas knew that three days later, they would crucify him. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. In my portrayal of the role, I always try to focus on the human aspects of the character and try to put myself in the situation. I try to convey the conflicts I imagine Judas had to be feeling about the actions he took that led to Jesus’ crucifixion.”

“Jesus Christ Superstar” opens with Judas singing “Heaven on Their Minds,” one of the most iconic of Judas’ songs in the show. Ellis’ favorite part of the show, however, is Judas and Jesus’ interaction during The Last Supper.

“It’s basically this staged argument between Jesus and Judas, where we go back and forth,” Ellis said. “We’ve done this show now over 180 times.  That’s a moment in the show where every single time… no matter what has happened before, or what’s going to go on after, or if I came to the theater with a headache, as soon as we get there, I’m completely dropped in just as intense as the first time we did it.”

Ellis expressed his gratitude for his role in the show and what he looks forward to most for the remainder of the show’s run.

“I think what I’m looking forward to most throughout the end of our contract with the tour is just trying my best to be present, even when I’m not on stage. I’m soaking up this experience with the people in our cast that we get to share it with. I’m cherishing every moment I get to do the show, because who knows when I’ll get to do it again. It has been one of the joys of my life.” 

Be sure to support Elvie Ellis’ journey by visiting his website at: and following him on IG @elvie.ellis and on TikTok @elvieboy.  “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be at the Miller Theater on the Kimmel Cultural Campus from May 2-7. For more information on tickets and showtimes, visit:

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