The 50th Anniversary Tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s iconic musical, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR will officially launch at Austin’s Bass Concert Hall on October 8th through the 13th. We talked to award-winning actor James Delisco Beeks about his part as Judas in this high energy, inspirational perspective of the life and times of the greatest story ever told. James told us a bit about how he was inspired to become an entertainer at age 12 while at a Michael Jackson concert.
AMFM: I’ve seen some great videos of you as Michael Jackson, touring all over the world.
James Delisco Beeks: I did that for a few years, all over the U S and Canada and some of Asia as well. It was a great experience to carry on that legacy. Michael’s a big inspiration in my life. A lot of people don’t know that he he would invite underprivileged children to see his show for free. And I was one of those kids. The reason why I’m doing what I do today is that moment when I was 12.
AMFM: Is that when you decided you wanted to be an entertainer?
James Delisco Beeks: But the first moment I knew I could sing was when I was in fourth grade and I was leading the class with the Pledge of Allegiance and The National Anthem.You know, I was a shy kid and in fact, I never spoke a word until I was five years old. But I got up as it was my turn, and as I sang the national Anthem, I noticed kids would stop singing. As the song got higher and higher my voice got bigger and bigger and all the kids stopped singing by the end of the song. I got a standing ovation from the class. My teachers suggested (as a nine year old kid) that I should enter the talent show.
Then one day as I went through my uncle’s 45 records, I came across a young Michael Jackson singing the song “Ben.” So I sang that one, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater. I thought to myself as a nine year old kid “wow, there’s something special about my voice.” Remember I was very shy and never spoke a lot. So I was very quiet, but when I sang, people actually listened to me. So that led me to the moment when I saw Michael Jackson.
AMFM: Where was that show?
James Delisco Beeks: Jacksonville, Florida
AMFM: So what was your trajectory from there to where you are now?
James Delisco Beeks: The next year after the concert that inspired me, there was a new performing arts high school opening up in my city. So I auditioned, actually with the song “Ben”. It’s now one of the leading performing arts high schools in the nation. It’s called The Douglas Anderson School For The Performning Arts. I had the best time honing my craft as a singer. I learned I could dance, and I went into musical theater a little bit. Then I went to college and studied music education, but I decided I wasn’t going to teach, I just wanted to perform. I did things like cruise ships and theme parks, and made my way up to New York.
AMFM: Everybody wants to go to New York, and it’s really tough to catch a break. What was yours?
James Delisco Beeks: Well, it’s an interesting story. I watched a guy named Billy Porter on Star Search, and I said “I want to sing like that.” Before I moved to New York, my friend who was living in Orlando said “there’s a song for you, it’s perfect for your voice. The show is called “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” You should go audition for the show, you’d be perfect for it. When I moved to New York, I was afraid because, you know…the competition. But one day as I was walking in the village, I heard a familiar voice at a piano bar. I walked in and said “who is that singing!” and somebody looked at me and said “That’s Billy Porter.” After he was done, he came and sat next to me and I told him I was a fan, and a singer too. He said “You’re a singer? Get up and Sing.”
So I had my one audition song, and I guess he was impressed. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was actually in “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” He said “why don’t you bring your picture and your resume to a stage manager and we’ll see what happens.” I did that. About two weeks later I get a phone call to show up at an audition, one thing led to another, I guess I impressed them. So I got my first proper show within three months of living in New York City, thanks to Billy Porter.
AMFM: That’s a great story! So now fast forward to today, and Jesus Christ Superstar. How much did you know about this play before you took the part of Judas?
James Delisco Beeks: Well, I’ve done it before. I did the play in the North Shore Music Theatre in the Boston area. It’s actually nominated for the IRNE Awards (The Independent Reviewers of New England Awards) for that performance. I had a great time with that. I also did Jesus Christ Superstar in Austin in the early 2000’s in a regional theater that’s no longer there. I played Simon and was an understudy.
AMFM: I love the music from Jesus Christ Superstar, the movie. Can you tell me what the biggest difference is between the movie and the Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar?
James Delisco Beeks: The choreography. The dancing. The ensemble is so incredible. Also, the intention behind the show, it’s more focused on the Brown Album. The concept album is what we’re celebrating, it’s the 50th anniversary of the very first introduction to Jesus Christ Superstar. We’re going to try to stay true to that album.
AMFM: What would you tell people who have never seen any of it before, who are coming in fresh. What would you tell them to look out for?
James Delisco Beeks: Expect to be inspired, from beginning to the end of the show. It really engages and wows. It’s telling the story through dance, and it’s overwhelming and inspiring. This is one of the better productions I’ve been a part of.
AMFM: So there’s more dance interpretation of this than the movie, and it’s storytelling through dance. Can you tell me about the part you play as Judas? What do you bring to this part from your own life?
James Delisco Beeks: Judas is a misunderstood character. I’ve researched this, and a lot of people have demonized Judas. If you look at it, Judas has a nuanced story to tell, and a tough situation. He had a job to do. If it wasn’t for Judas, the whole plan of salvation would not have been achieved. He’s perceived as the hero in this show. I want to bring Judas’s perspective to it, and the story is told through his perspective. I want to show that he was a man who was put in a really tough position, and what would you do to set things in motion to bring us to where we are today? Think about it. We are in 2019 A.D., based on this story. I can’t reinvent it. Judas has a message for us, you know?
AMFM: I’m looking forward to seeing you on the stage. I’ve seen you on the videos and that’s impressive enough, but I know that there’s no substitute for live music and dance, so it’s going to be amazing. My last question was going to be what would you like people to take away from this? But I think you’ve just answered it succinctly and it’s perfect. I don’t think I could improve upon that.
James Delisco Beeks (Judas) is an award-winning entertainer and seasoned Broadway performer whose credits include Kinky Boots, Aida, Ragtime, and Smokey Joe’s Café. He was also seen Off-Broadway in Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party. James is the winner of the Reality TV series “The Entertainer” on E!; where he won a $1 million dollar contract to headline in Las Vegas. As one of world’s leading MJ Tribute artists, he moonwalked his way through the US, Canada, and Asia with Windborne’s Music of Michael Jackson symphonic tour to rave reviews from 2010-2019. He is also an author currently finishing his new novel entitled ‘HisStory (An American story) to be released in 2020. For more information and music visit jamesbeeks.com.