By Lynn Venhaus
Triple-threat Omega Jones has grown into a commanding presence on stage. In recent years, he has played such disparate roles as Magaldi in “Evita,” a jerky jock in “Heathers,” the help in “Grey Gardens,” and the piano-playing Coalhouse Walker Jr. in “Ragtime,” for which he won Outstanding Actor in a Musical from the St. Louis Theater Circle.
Now he is tackling the iconic role of Jesus in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which Stray Dog Theatre is presenting from April 12 – 27.
Known for his candor, passion, humor and warmth, Omega took time from rehearsals to talk about his latest production and his actors’ journey.
How did he approach such a role as Jesus?
“I am finding that there is a line between portraying a religious savior and portraying a broken man predestined for greatness at the cost of his own life. It’s such an emotionally demanding role and it’s not one to be taken for granted,” he said. “I know that people view Jesus as their Lord, but it’s interesting really digging into the part of him that was ‘just a man,’ as Judas states.
Omega is pleased with director Justin Been’s vision on the nearly 50-year old show.
“The concept is so different than I’ve seen in other productions. We are really honing in on the idea of him being a man who gains power and the weight that comes with that. It’s dark, it’s strong, and it’s very much real,” he said.
This is his second leading role within the year for Stray Dog Theatre, which produced “Ragtime” with a cast of 26 on the small stage at the Tower Grove Abbey last August.
The musical received rave reviews and five awards from the St. Louis Theater Circle – for Outstanding Musical, Director (Justin Been), Music Director (Jennifer Buchheit), Actor and Supporting Actress (Evan Addams as Sarah).
It was a special experience, he said.
“It is a gorgeous story and to go on this journey with the most amazing cast was the greatest feeling. They were in my corner, as I was in theirs,” he said.
Being able to portray Coalhouse Walker Jr. was a dream come true.
“To play a black man with his status and strength meant everything to me. It gave me hope and the push to continue, even in the face of adversity and pain,” he said.
“There will always be someone who views me as nothing more than the black guy who got lucky. But there are roles like Coalhouse that prove that I’m so much more than that,” he said.
Omega has been part of both community and regional professional theater for several years. Next up, he will play Flick in “Violet,” which the Ozark Actors Theatre will present July 12-15 and 19-22.
He has been nominated six times for Arts for Life’s Best Performance Awards, which are presented annually in June to honor excellence in community musical theater. He won three – as one of the gangsters in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” as Mitch Mahoney in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and as Magaldi in “Evita.”
At the recent Circle Awards, he concluded his acceptance speech with the “Wakanda Forever” salute from the film “Black Panther.”
“It’s honestly become the new symbol and phrase for Black Power. But not just that, it represents black excellence and strength. Throughout all of the trials and tribulations, we have persevered,” he said.
Here is Omega’s responses to our 10 survey questions:
- Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“It chose me? I’ve been singing since I was definitely at least 4 or 5 years old. The arts might as well be a part of my bloodstream. As I got older, I realized how much the arts meant to me and I wanted to make it my full-time career, as best as I could.”
- How would your friends describe you?
“Sarcastic, sassy, a hot mess? But also lovable, kind, and goofy. I describe myself as a bear. I’m a teddy bear with those I care for and love, but if they are messed with? I’ll become a grizzly bear in a split second.”
- How do you like to spend your spare time?
“I like to read, books and comics both. I’m also always doing something with Photoshop while jamming to Pentatonix.”
- What is your current obsession?
“The Wicked & The Divine.” “It is gorgeous. Do yourself a favor and read it.”
- What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“I have a slight phobia of storms. It has the most ridiculous story that goes along with it, but I will keep quiet about it for now, haha.”
- Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“When I was offered to work down in Disney for the Disney College Program. I absolutely screamed. The ability to wake up and go ‘Hmm… I don’t have work today? Time to go to the Magic Kingdom for free!’ was pretty nice.”
- Who do you admire most?
“My best friends. Ebony Easter, Tyler Cheatem, and Shannon Slavik keep me sane. We toss memes at each other and ramble about the most random stuff. It’s great.”
- What is at the top of on your bucket list?
“I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I really want to go skydiving. It’s been on my list for a while now and I think I’m ready.”
- What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?
“I am trash for anything at Forest Park. Give me a good picnic plus the Zoo and the Art Museum? I’m set.”
- What’s next?
“Whatever the world throws at me!”
MORE ABOUT OMEGA:
Birthplace: St. Louis
Current location: St. Louis
Family: “I have a birth family and an adoptive family, and I love them both.”
Education: McCluer High School and Missouri State University.
Day job: Receptionist
First job: Ride Attendant for Thunder River at Six Flags.
First role: A-Rab in “West Side Story.
Favorite roles/plays: Papa Ge/”Once On This Island,” Tom Collins/”Rent,” James ‘Thunder’ Early/”Dreamgirls,” Flick/”Violet.”
Dream role/play: Lola in “Kinky Boots”
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Outstanding Actor in a Musical for Coalhouse Walker Jr. in “Ragtime” from St. Louis Theater Circle, and three individual Best Performance Awards from Arts for Life – for “Evita,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
Favorite quote/words to live by: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” “Can I get an Amen?”
A song that makes you happy: “From Now On” in “The Greatest Showman.”