The Community Players 316th production of their 85th season is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera, "Jesus Christ Superstar". The show chronicles the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth as seen through the eyes of his disciple, Judas Iscariot,who has become disillusioned with the movement. At the opening of the play, Judas agonizes over his perception that Jesus' followers have become fanatical and unrealistic, hailing him as a god and twisting his words into monstrous prophecies. After all in Judas' mind, Jesus is only a man, a man with certain inconsistencies, as evidenced by his relationship with Mary Magdalene. As the crowds in the street grow more and more out of control, the rift between Jesus and Judas grows. After watching Jesus lose control in the temple, lashing out at the moneylenders and merchants, then begging to be left alone when a crowd of cripples surround him to be healed, Judas is more convinced than ever that the man from Nazareth is just a man and nothing more. He determines that Jesus, having lost control of the mob, has become dangerous and must be stopped. Judas goes to the priests and gives them all the information they need to catch Jesus alone so they can take him prisoner without risking violence by the mob. After leading the soldiers to Gethsemane and watching the events unfold, Judas realizes he has become the instrument of Jesus' martyrdom. Furious that Jesus will be remembered as a "Superstar", Judas hangs himself as his misguided betrayal leads to the crucifixion of Jesus. The show first opened on Broadway on October 12, 1971 and ran for 720 performances. Director Greg Geer casts the best people in all the roles and musical director Ron Procopio makes them sound fantastic in their solos, duets and choral numbers, creating a must see show which is rewarded with a standing ovation at the end of it.
Greg blocks each of the scenes perfectly, creating picture postcard tableaus. He also elicits the best acting out of his performers,obtaining topnotch quality from leading players and crowd scenes, too. The musical quality of all the singers equal their acting talents and Ron always delivers the goods with his excellent directorial skills. He also plays the piano and leads a fantastic 5 piece band. Choreography including a Charleston in the King Herod song and other dynamic dance numbers, is by Marjorie Santos. Set design for the two story set and the crucifix is by Mike Araujo and the stage manager who keeps the show flowing from one scene to the next is Mike's wife, Mary who also designed the lights. The numerous costumes are by Laurea Osborne and the sound is by Dan Fisher.
Daniel Kirby plays Jesus. His baritone voice sells his songs with ease and he captures the essence of the man who died to save the world from their sins. Daniel's "Gethsemane" is lovely as is his "Poor Jerusalem". He also handles the rock songs beautifully as he goes into falsetto in them. The whipping scene and crucifixion scene are tearjerking moments with Daniel's agony coming through in them wonderfully. Chris O'Donnell is one of the best Judas' I have ever seen. His dynamite tenor voice soars off the charts in his opening song "Heaven on Their Minds" as well as in "Blood Money", "Damned for All Time" and "Judas' Death" where he hangs himself onstage to the horror of the audience, making a wonderful dramatic statement. Chris' fabulous acting talent shines through commanding every scene he is in. He also sings the powerful "Jesus Christ Superstar" number with the dancing girls in white. Chris is very talented young man with great stage presence and the chops to back it up. The third lead in this show is Melanie Gendreau as Mary Magdalene. She knocks your socks off with her magnificent voice and acting talent in "Everything's Alright", "I Don't Know How to Love Him" which is the best rendition I've ever heard and "Could We Start Again Please" where the chorus joins. Melanie is a powerful performer who helps to make this a successful show.
Devin Marchany, a senior at Cranston West High School, plays Simon Zealotes. He dances up a storm with the chorus in the "Simon Zealotes" song and shows off his powerful voice, too. John Tavares as Peter gets to show off his voice in "Peter's Denial" and in "Could We Start Again Please" with Melanie and Jason Linden, a high school senior at Pilgrim, who plays John, the youngest apostle. Michael Thayer plays Pilate and gets to sing "Pilate's Dream", "Pilate and Christ" and "Trial before Pilate". He shows off a strong singing voice and acting talent in all of them. King Herod is played by veteran actor, John Moniz while the villains of the show are played menacingly by James Clements as Caiaphas and Brian Lamothe as Annas. Their wonderful voices are heard in "The We Decided", "This Jesus Must Die" with the other priests well played by Ed Carusi, Roger Belanger and Michael Dube who returns to the stage after a 20 year absence. Kudos to the other cast members for doing a bang up job on this show. So for an excellent evening of theatre, be sure to catch "Jesus Christ Superstar" with topnotch direction and production values.