May 29, 2023


Just Do Travel

Jenna Rubaii seeks out parks and the unexpected when traveling

Jenna Rubaii at Saguaro National Park in Arizona in 2019.
Jenna Rubaii at Saguaro National Park in Arizona in 2019.handout

When Jenna Rubaii was 6 or 7 years old, her Tampa-based song-and-dance group was selected to perform in the chorus of the national tour of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The Clearwater native was quickly hooked on theater. She went on to perform in a number of national and international tours and on Broadway (where she originated the role of “Joelle” in “Groundhog Day”). Now, roughly 25 years later after “Joseph,” she finds herself performing again in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. This time, it’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” in which she plays Mary Magdalene and gets to sing what she referred to as “one of the most iconic ballads of all time” (“I Don’t Know How to Love Him”). The rock opera based on the Gospels is coming to the Emerson Colonial Theatre Jan. 4-16. “Our current production stems from the 2017 version that was performed at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. It won an Olivier [Award] for best revival and is a completely new and fresh take on the story,” Rubaii, 32, said in a phone call from Toronto, where “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which debuted on Broadway in 1971, was being performed. “It’s much more of a rock show meets dance concert meets theater piece meets passion play. It’s very raw and it’s very authentic … and I think it lends itself to much more interpretation from the audience’s point of view. It’s not super literal.” We caught up with the New York City-based actress, who loves to hike and is a yoga enthusiast, to talk about all things travel.

Favorite vacation destination? This is such a difficult question to answer. Every city, every state, every country brings its own flair and vibrance. I love the mountains so I usually look for destinations with great places to hike. But if we’re getting specific, Japan was an absolute highlight. I had the opportunity to tour there with Green Day’s “American Idiot,” and Tokyo is, hands down, one of the most unique cities I’ve explored. Japanese culture and hospitality are unmatched, and don’t even get me started on the sushi. … I’m still dreaming about it.

Favorite food or drink while vacationing? Anything unique to the culture. I want an authentic experience, so I often seek out suggestions from the locals, if possible. Most memorable dining experiences include: hibachi in Japan — it’s an artform — and the most simple, fresh-from-the garden salads from Bali Eco Stay in Bali and Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay in the Philippines. Oh, and if I’m in Southeast Asia, you can always find me sipping from a coconut.

Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I’ve always wanted to visit Spain and Morocco. I started learning Arabic over the pandemic from a teacher in Morocco, so now I’m even more excited to plan that trip.

One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? My passport. And most recently, a white noise machine. It makes all the difference when you’re trying to sleep in a new place.

Aisle or window? Aisle. I like being able to stretch my legs without bothering people to get up.

Favorite childhood travel memory? I was so lucky to have a family that introduced me to the importance of travel at such a young age. My most vivid childhood travel memories are those of the gorgeous national parks throughout our country. Carlsbad Caverns, Great White Sands, and Arches stick out as top favorites from our family vacations. Now I make a point to find any national or state park while I’m on tour throughout the US. It completely rejuvenates me.

Guilty pleasure when traveling? Eating my way through every city!

Best travel tip? Be willing to adventure. I think the best travel experiences are the most unexpected. Have an outline of what you want to do, but be open to spontaneity. Oh, and TSA pre-check. Not even a question. It makes all travel days less stressful.