Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson and Rubicon Theatre
Rubicon Theatre is honored to have Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson as the company’s founding artists.
James O’Neil had appeared as Pontius Pilate with Ted and Carl in the National Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar which started in the early 1990s. When Jim came home to the Central Coast after the tour, he and wife Karyl Lynn Burns dreamed of starting an artist-driven not-for-profit theatre company in Ventura. They would call it Rubicon.
Jim wrote an impassioned letter to Ted, whom he had first met a decade before in a production at the Santa Barbara County Bowl. Ted responded wholeheartedly and a two-night concert version of Superstar was slated for November of 1998 to launch the fledgling company.
Once Ted and Carl said yes, the magic began. Equity agreed to allow the event to benefit the new company. Paul Ainsley, the original Herod on Broadway, volunteered his services and brought his original headdress. Other friends from Broadway, film and tour productions stepped forward. Musicians from the tour, hearing the vision for Rubicon, also offered their support, flying in from Chicago or driving up from Los Angeles. L.A. Drama Critics Circle Margaret Harford Award-winner Russell Pyle created the magnificent lighting. Local actors and singers auditioned to be a part of the cast, which included Claire Bowman (later the company’s first board president) her son Jesse Gwin, Doug Crawford, Michael Cunio, Walter Winston O’Neill, Jennifer Eaton, Leslie Leavens, Katie Malloy-Thatcher and many others.
Sandra and Jordan Laby provided underwriting for the license from MTI. Barbara and Larry Meister, Bernie and Dottie Novatt and Nancy and Bob Gregory all stepped forward as the first Rubicon sponsors.
Tickets went on sale, and the two nights sold out immediately, with more than a third of the audience booking tickets from out-of-state. Two performances stretched to three (also sold-out!).
Ted and Carl continued to be a part of the development and growth of Rubicon through the years. Before his passing, Carl played Macheath in Beggar’s Holiday at Rubicon, an adaptation of Beggar’s Opera set in New Orleans written by Dale Wasserman with music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Carl’s music director Kevin Toney created the Rubicon arrangements. (The original production had the first bi-racial kiss on Broadway.)
In Rubicon’s first season, Ted played the dramatic role of Willy Moore in the World Premiere stage adaptation of Murder in the First by Dan Gordon, a social justice story based on true events leading to the close of Alcatraz. The production was directed by Linda Gray and featured a cast including Larry Hagman, Dana Elcar, Joseph Fuqua and Johanna McKay.
Supporting the cause both onstage and behind-the-scenes, Ted helped design and run sound for an anniversary production of Lies and Legends: The Musical Stories of Harry Chapin directed by George Ball. As a young company Rubicon didn’t have proper rock-and-roll mics, so Ted took the existing elements and fashioned them from hangers and gaff tape. He asked the volunteer auxiliary to bring in egg cartons, spraypainted them and glued them to the walls to balance the sound in the space.
Ted took on the Herculean task of playing Lucky in Waiting for Godot, which was part of the West Coast Beckett Festival under the direction of German director Walter Asmus. His castmates included Robin Gammell, Joe Spano, and Cliff DeYoung.
Rubicon audiences were privileged to be the first to hear the sounds of Ted Neeley and The Little Big Band.
And during the pandemic, when Rubicon was the first professional theatre in the country to produce a safe-distance Drive-In Concert Series, Ted starred with Terri Bibb, David Burnham, Tami Tappan Damiano and Ty Taylor in Music of the Knights.
Ted is an integral part of Rubicon Theatre Company’s past, present and future, and we are grateful to him for helping the company through the present pandemic challenge by sharing his advice, expertise and talent.
We look forward to honoring his participation through the dedication of the Ted Neeley Balcony in the spring, and to unveiling the plans for the balcony on Ted’s 80th Birthday!
Video of Ted singing “Gethsemane” in the 1993 tour which co-starred Carl Anderson and James O’Neil.