Playing Peter

I didn’t get the part I wanted. I blame my mother.

I’d decided to audition for the Lakeside Little Theatre’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which will run January 26th – February 6th, 2024. With a cast (principals, chorus, dancers, musicians) of more than 40 and a supporting staff of more than 15, it will be the largest production in the theatre’s 59-year history. So, of course, I’d wanted to participate in (lead?) such a momentous endeavor.

Since I cannot sing tenor, I’d believed there were only two roles available to me, Herod and Pilate. I chose Pilate.

Who wouldn’t? Pilate sings three major songs. First, he greets Jesus with Roman arrogance, “Who is this broken man, cluttering up my hallway?” Later, though, he defends Jesus against the mob the Sanhedrin had provoked: “Look at your Jesus Christ. I’ll agree he’s mad. Ought to be locked up. But that is not a reason to destroy him.” And then there’s Pilate’s melancholy, devastating song about his prophetic dream: “I saw thousands of millions mentioning my name, and leaving me the blame.” The role of Pilate had me written all over it.

At a party, I’d met another prospective actor, Tim Johnson, who was interested in the same roles (the scurvy dog!). I magnanimously agreed to allow him to get Herod, while I’d play Pilate.

The trouble was, some of the finest voices Lakeside auditioned for the play; and even I (in my profound humility) could not count myself among them. But, let’s not forget about my abundant charm, my captivating stage presence, my ingratiating smile….

The directors chose Tim to be Pilate. (That son of a biscuit! We had a deal!) What were they thinking? Just because the shameless fellow can sing much, much better than I is no reason to give him such a juicy part. Don’t they know who I am? It’s a travesty, really.

Giving credit where it’s due, the directors wisely gave two of the three leading roles, Judas and Mary Magdalene, to mesmerizing Mexican singers, Mariachi extraordinaire Luis Sanchez, and beloved veterinarian Laura Medina. Just wow! This is going to be an incredible show.

Even so, which part did the grand-poobah directors deign to grant me?


Mom! I knew it!

You need to understand: Decades before, when I was but 13, I’d prepared to make my Catholic Confirmation; and I’d had to choose a confirmation name, one of the revered saints’. Philip? James? Stephen? I couldn’t make up my mind.

“Choose Peter,” my mom had advised. “He was always screwing up.” And then in response to my hurt look, she’d explained, “Most of the saints seem to be marble statues. Perfect, they never sinned, never had an impure thought. They weren’t real. But Peter, he was self-absorbed, he betrayed Jesus three times. He was a deeply flawed, terribly human, imperfect man. Nonetheless, it was to him that Jesus handed the ‘keys to the kingdom.’ Now, there’s a saint you can really believe in, one you can emulate.”

I took my mom’s advice and my name became David Joseph (baptismal name) Peter (confirmation name) Ellison.

Fine. I took the damned saint’s name. Does that mean I have to play him with his scant eight lines of sung dialog, including the stratospheric (for me, a shaky baritone at best) notes of high G? (Maybe it’s a good thing I’ll screech only eight lines.)

Heavy sigh. I guess I’ll have to die before the Lakeside Little Theatre finally recognizes the prodigy it had in its midst.

There is some poetic justice in an oh-so-imperfect (self-aggrandizing, self-deceiving) actor like me playing the obviously flawed St. Peter. I know my mom, who died two years ago, must think so. Hell, I’ll bet she convinced The Man Upstairs to get me the stupid part.

No, I’ll never forgive her, either.

Auditions for the ensemble and dance teams for Jesus Christ Superstar will take place during the afternoons of October 5th and 6th. ( Season tickets for all of the theatre’s shows are now available (

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