EDMONDS – Susan Olmos loved the popular 1970 rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” listening to the album over and over with her brother as teenagers.
But “one thing that bothered me about it was that the ending was so final” — there was no Resurrection, said Olmos, who is music director and a music teacher at Holy Rosary Parish in Edmonds.
So in 1984 she began writing “In His Hands,” a musical telling the story of Jesus as recalled by the apostle Peter. “We tell the whole story,” Olmos said. “I made sure that we have this glorious, grand ending.”
For the first time since its original 1985 production as an ecumenical venture involving Seattle-area churches, “In His Hands” is returning to the stage May 13-15 (see box for more details).
This time, the production is spearheaded by Holy Rosary Parish and features some professional actors and staff. There’s a chorus, dancers and a 23-piece orchestra with a rock band. The band includes Emmy-award-winning drummer Matt Burgess, who was part of the original production and since then has worked with the likes of Willie Nelson.
Proceeds from the performances will benefit the nonprofit Washington Kids in Transition, which helps local children in crisis.
Susan Olmos. Courtesy Photo
Olmos is grateful for the help of her pastor, Father Kenneth Haydock, who “has supported my creative process and trusted in my abilities,” she said. “He really made ‘In His Hands’ possible by fully supporting that vision.”
But if Olmos hadn’t received a call out of the blue two years ago from Scott Barker, who was the original show’s technical director, “In His Hands” might have remained packed away in a box in her garage. She hadn’t heard from Barker since 1985 and now he was asking if she would be interested in restaging the musical.
“I was afraid of this musical for 30 years,” Olmos said. “I put it away because I didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to see it, didn’t want to relive it again. It was such a profound experience,” she said.
Olmos, who became Catholic in 1993, felt inspired while writing the music. She was teaching in public schools, directing a Methodist choir, raising a toddler and expecting a second child. While commuting, a tune would come to her and she would sing it into a recorder. At night, she sat at the piano composing.
“I feel like I was just a vessel and that music came through me and I wrote it down,” she said.
Barker’s phone call was just one thing convincing Olmos that God wanted her to stage “In His Hands” anew.
Shortly after meeting with Barker, she heard from two other members of the original cast. Then Olmos figured out that a colleague — Craig Schell, Bishop Blanchet High School’s music director for 13 years — had played the child Jesus in 1985.
During the original production, a lot of little miracles happened, such as money or materials becoming available just when they were needed, she said.
“It’s happening with this production as well.” Olmos said. “God wanted this to happen and I resisted for two years. I can only say I’m following orders,” she said, laughing.
Read more about Susan Olmos’ faith and music in the June issue of Northwest Catholic.
Attend the show
“In His Hands,” a rock musical about the life of Jesus, will be staged May 13-15 at the Mountlake Terrace High School Performing Arts Center, 21801 44th Ave. W.
Performance times are 7:30 p.m. May 13 and 14, with matinees at 3 p.m. May 14 and 15.
Purchase tickets ($20 and $25) online or in person at the Holy Rosary Parish Center, 760 Aloha St., Edmonds.