January 21~January 29, 2012 

preview: Friday, January 20, 2012 | 7 p.m. 
premiere: Saturday, January 21 | 7 p.m. 
performances: Sunday, January 22 | 2 p.m., Wednesday, January 25 | 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. (Talkback following 7 pm performance), Thursday, January 26 | 7 p.m., Friday, January 27 | 7 p.m., Saturday, January 28 | 2 p.m. & 8 p.m., and Sunday, January 29 | 2 p.m.

About Ted Neeley
Before his epoch-making performance in the film of Jesus Christ, Superstar, Ted Neeley was a singer, songwriter, vocal arranger, and record producer from Ranger, Texas. He lent his abilities to albums and appearances by artists such as Nigel Olsson, Tina Turner, Disco Tax and the Sex-O-Lettes, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley and Meat Loaf. Following years of sold-out stage tours, and film and television work, this Renaissance man now melds his musical passions for many kinds of music to create a theatrical concert event which kicks off here at Rubicon prior to a national tour! Backed by a little (five-piece) band of big talents, Ted takes us back to his Texas roots with a winsome bit of backwoods blues and country, performs highlights from rock-and-roll musicals such as Tommy, Hair, Sgt. Pepper’s… and Superstar, sings excerpts from his film scores for Robert Altman and others, and premieres new, never-before-heard pop compositions. Expect a mix of electric and acoustic music, a little “yammering” and some special surprises

Neeley, born Teddie Joe Neeley, began his career in his hometown of Ranger, Texas as a rock-and-roll drummer in the 1960s. He signed his first record deal with Capitol Records, and played the club circuit on that label for years with The Teddy Neeley Five. He then became a vocal arranger and record producer, working with such artists as Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Bo Diddley, Keith Carradine and Meat Loaf.

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Neeley’s career took a different trajectory. The producers of Hair were going outside the normal New York casting process for their revolutionary new rock musical (some say the first). On a lark, Ted tagged along with some musician friends to an audition and was cast in leading roles in the New York and Los Angeles companies.

The Broadway director of Hair, Tom O’Horgan, suggested the long-haired, charismatic Neeley to producer Robert Stigwood for Jesus Christ Superstar. Ted started in the Broadway ensemble and then was tapped to play the role of Jesus in the O’Horgan production at Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. There he was seen by Norman Jewison, who interviewed him and immediately invited him to recreate his performance in the film, for which Neeley was nominated for Golden Globe Awards for both Best Actor and Best Newcomer in 1974.

Fresh from the success of Superstar, Neeley released a solo album, “1974 A.D.” He then brought his distinctive wail to the role of Billy Shears in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road.

Neeley became a frequent musical guest star on network television shows like “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and “A Touch of Gold”; and appeared as a guest star on network dramas and television movies in the 1970s and 1980s, ranging from “Starsky and Hutch,” to “Of Mice and Men,” to “McLaren's Riders.”

Neeley composed music for and appeared in Robert Altman's film “A Perfect Couple,” and performed the music for the TriStar feature film “Blame it on the Night,” NBC-TV's “Highway to Heaven,” and “The Big Blue Marble” for the Children's Television Network. He also wrote music for, and starred in Cowboy Jack Street at the Mark Taper Forum in L.A.

Neeley returned to the role of Jesus in the 1992 A.D. revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, which became the longest-running revival in North American theatrical history, criss-crossing the nation for some 1,700 performances.

The Neeley–O’Neil Connection
Neeley and Rubicon Artistic Director James O’Neil first met in a 1976 production of Superstar at the Santa Barbara County Bowl, a benefit for Jack Nakano’s Youth Theatre directed by Gary Goddard. O’Neil, recently out of Cal Arts (and an alum of the Santa Barbara program), played Annas in that production, and O’Neil and Neeley became fast friends. Says O’Neil, “I went into the wings every performance to watch Ted sing ‘Gethsemane.’ His performance of that song is one of the most electrifying moments I’ve experienced in a theatre.”

Later, when Goddard’s Landmark Entertainment Group produced the 1992 AD tour of Superstar, O’Neil was hired as Associate Director and played Pontius Pilate. The intense nature of their performances in those seminal roles drew them even closer. Says O’Neil, “Playing opposite Ted in ‘The Trial’ and ‘Pilate and Christ’ sections of the musical was very moving. The truth of his performance was undeniable and powerful.”

The run, initially scheduled for three months, continued breaking house records across the country for years. Says O’Neil, “Audience members were so profoundly touched by Ted’s work that they would wait outside the stage door to meet him, some staying until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. in the morning.”

“As much as he gives of himself in his performances,” continues O’Neil, “Ted also gives of himself in that same way to fans. Ted is a great listener and has deep personal reservoirs - each person he meets feels heard and valued—and they are.“

Neeley “Crosses the Rubicon”
When O’Neil and Rubicon Co-Founder Karyl Lynn Burns dreamed of starting Rubicon, they approached locals Elena Brokaw and Cassandra Petrovich about producing a first event. At their suggestion, O’Neil sent Neeley a letter about the vision for Rubicon as an actors’ and directors’ company committed to doing revelatory work. Neeley immediately and generously offered his support, signing on to the idea of a Superstar reunion. The cast was made up of Neeley, Carl Anderson (it would be the last time the two performed together as Anderson passed away from Leukemia in 2004), O’Neil (as Pilate), Paul Ainsley (the original Broadway Herod), many performers (and musicians) from the ’92 AD National Tour, and local actor/singers from Los Angeles, Ventura, Oxnard and Ojai who auditioned. Barry Dennen, the original West End and Broadway Pilate, agreed to attend and lend his name. (O’Neil had previously directed Dennen in Drood!) The production drew interest from across the nation and, remarkably, more than a third of the attendees were from out-of-state. The Ventura County Star called it a staging of “biblical proportions.” Lisa McKinnon wrote, “There’s no denying that this ‘Superstar’ was something special.”

TNPOS3002Following Rubicon Theatre Company’s inaugural production of Jesus Christ Superstar back in 1998, Neeley remained in Ventura to help establish Rubicon in the community. O’Neil recalls, “In addition to sharing his talents with our community, Ted was incredibly committed to ensuring the company got a strong start in other ways."

Neeley and Honorary Chairs Rosa Lee Measures and Albert Harris hosted the first board recruitment effort—“The First Supper”—(with tables of 12, of course, at then-new Jonathan’s Mediterranean Restaurant)—and met with city officials and supporters.

Neeley even designed sound for the company’s first musical in its new home at Laurel and Main, a production of Lies and Legends: The Musical Stories of Harry Chapin. Says O’Neil, “We had recently moved into our current venue, which was a church built in the 1920s. We didn’t have the resources for the kind of acoustical work or sound equipment that we really needed. Ted created headsets for the actors out of hangers, small microphones and gaff tape. He asked members of our volunteer auxiliary to bring in empty egg cartons, which he pasted to the walls and spray-painted black to help control the sound bounce. Ted even ran the sound himself. It was amazing to have someone with his ear on the board.”

TNPOS3003In the company’s first full season, Neeley made his first return to the Rubicon stage in a non-musical role that was a complete departure from Superstar—that of convict Willie Moore in the World Premiere stage adaptation of Murder in the First by Dan Gordon. Rubicon’s production was directed by Linda Gray and starred Neeley, Gary Best, Joseph Fuqua and Larry Hagman. The play was loosely based on a true story about a landmark legal case that drew attention to the need for prison reform in the 1940s. The Backstage West reviewer wrote, “Neeley becomes Willie Moore with that intensity of commitment achieved only by artists at the top of their form…Neeley holds the courtroom and we, the jury, are spellbound.”

In the fall of 2004, Neeley appeared at Rubicon in another challenging drama. Neeley played Lucky in Waiting for Godot, directed by Beckett expert German director Walter Asmus, and starring Cliff DeYoung, Joe Spano and Robin Gammell. The production was the centerpiece of Rubicon’s West Coast Beckettfest—a celebration of the Centennial of Samuel Beckett’s birth. The Los Angeles Times described the performance as follows: “As the master-slave duo Pozzo and Lucky, Cliff De Young and Ted Neeley not only symbolize exploitation and greed in the social hierarchy but reveal themselves trapped by it …In Neeley’s eerie soliloquy, what begins as a sigh builds to a guttural howl of rage."

Band and Designers
For “Ted Neeley and The Little Big Band,” Neeley returns melds his theatrical and musical roots. Band members are Kim Norton, guitar; Craig Stull, guitar: Candy Chase, bass; Gavin Salmon, drums; and Ed Martel, keyboards. Sound design is by Bruce Yauger and Lighting Design is by David King. Tobias Peltier is Stage Manager. The concert is expected to tour nationally next season.

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