It’s always a treat to see Oklahomans make it to the big leagues – whether that’s in business or in front of a crowd. One such shining example of the latter is performer Elvie Ellis. He currently plays Judas in the touring Broadway show Jesus Christ Superstar, but his love for theatre has much deeper roots.
“I grew up in a musical family, so I’ve always had a passion for performing,” he says.
He mentions that as a child, he would often make up skits or dances and perform them for his family, but the need to be on the stage – in front of more than just a few people – soon took precedence.
“I saw my older brother perform in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying at our school, Classen SAS. I went to every single performance and rehearsal – mostly because he was my ride to and from school – and I just remember being completely enamored by the entire process.”
Although Jesus Christ Superstar is Ellis’ second touring show, the excitement hasn’t worn off.
“This is a dream show and role of mine, so I was pinching myself throughout the entire audition process,” he says.
Auditions began while Ellis was still touring on the previous show, Waitress. The process started, he says, with a video audition – and then flying out to New York twice to perform in-person.
“It was really serendipitous actually, because the days that my in-person auditions were scheduled just happened to be on days that I didn’t have performances for Waitress, so I was able to audition without missing any shows.”
While he did feel honored to get the role, he also felt like it there was a touch of destiny involved.
“It just felt right, more than anything,” he says. “This was a role I had been dreaming and praying about doing for so many years, so getting cast felt like an answered prayer, and like everything I had done previously led me to that moment,” he says.
Touring life can be tough, but almost every day is different from the last.
“Like with any job, it has its highs and lows,” he says. “Being away from my family and my sweet dog, Baker, is hard, but getting to perform this amazing piece of work for audiences across the country is so special and compares to almost nothing.”
Since Ellis began collecting roles, he’s gained a few favorite memories – including playing Charles Clarke in Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’s Titanic, as well as the Scarecrow in Classen’s production of The Wiz.
“[The Scarecrow] was my first principal role, and it was so much fun to recreate such an epic musical with Black influences,” he says. “My first national tour with Waitress was a big one for me, too. I was ‘swing’ in that show, so I covered all the ensemble roles, and I understudied three of the male principal tracks. It was a lot of hard work, but a ton of fun.”
Ellis, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, was cast in a production of The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber in his collegiate program; this was his first introduction to Jesus Christ Superstar.
“Although I didn’t sing any solos from the show in that concert, I remember being enamored by my peers who did have the solos,” he says. “I also remember thinking I could never sing that music well. Fast forward and here we are; it’s funny how things come full circle.”
Photo by Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made