The Encore Repertory Company This 1970's musical chronicles the last seven days of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It seems fitting that the first rock opera, created as a concept album at the end of the turbulent 60's, should have at its center a social and political rebel. Jesus' meteor-like rise in renown provides, as the title suggests, a parallel to contemporary celebrity worship. As his radical teachings are evermore embraced, Judas increasingly questions the enlightened motives of this new prophet, resulting in betrayal. Christ's final days are dramatized with emotional intensity, thought-provoking edge and explosive theatricality. Propelled by a stirring score, by turns driving and majestic, satirical and tender, "Jesus Christ Superstar" illuminates the transcendent power of the human spirit with a passion that goes straight to the heart. The show first opened on Broadway on October 12, 1971 and ran for 729 performances. Director Meaghan Bruneault, musical director Jeff Kimball and choreographer Kathy Fortier pick the 39 talented performers to pull off this powerful musical which will move you to tears at its depth and poignancy. They win a thunderous standing ovation at the curtain call.
Meaghan keeps the action flowing from one scene into another. Standout moments include the Last Supper tableau which resembles the DaVinci painting and the Way of the Cross up the aisle of the theatre as well as the Crucifixion. Meaghan captures the emotions of the audience which leads them into tears at all the appropriate moments. Jeff taught the cast the lovely melodies and intricate harmonies of the numbers while Kathy supplies the dance steps for "Simon's" number and "Herod's Song" which both stop the show as well as the phenomenal "Superstar" number. The cast is lead by Matt Lapata as Jesus. He has a marvelous tenor voice which handles the rock spectrum of the role as well as a falsetto for the mellower moments. His "Gethsemane" will leave you in tears as he builds the song to a soaring crescendo and also does a superb job on "Hosanna" and uses his falsetto in "Poor Jerusalem." His voice soars off the charts in his songs. Matt not only has strong vocal ability but is a powerful actor, too. Some of his outstanding moments include the Last Supper, the whipping scene and the crucifixion. His carrying of the cross up the aisle is gut wrenching as is his death on the cross.
Betsy Johnson is splendid as Mary Magdalene. She has a fantastic soprano voice which is heard in "Everything's Alright" where she tries to sooth Jesus after a trying day, the powerful and poignant ballad, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" where she admits her hidden feelings for him and "Could We Start Again, Please", a rousing emotionally charged ballad with Peter. Brian Lopes is dynamite as Judas. He displays his powerhouse tenor voice and range in "Heaven on Their Minds", "Damned for All Time", "Blood Money" and "Judas' Death." This latter song is a troubling one concerning Judas' death scene. Brian excels in the "Superstar" number where he and the girls dance up a storm. He and Matt are marvelous adversaries.
Adam Landry who has a topnotch voice plays Peter. He and Betsy rock their duet together. Adam also handles "Peter's Denial" wonderfully, too. The villainous high priests are played by bass singer Rich Brosky as Caiaphas and tenor singer John McElroy as Annas. They have strong voices and menacing presence as do JP Morgan and Ron Martin. Simon Zealotes is well played by Nigel Richards. He displays his strong voice in "Simon Zealotes" number with the chorus. Nigel does a topnotch dance with them in this number. Pilate is wonderfully played by Bill Beatini. He has a strong voice and sings the mellow "Pilate's Dream" as well as the rock numbers "Pilate and Christ" and "Trial by Pilate" which soars up to a high B flats. A comic turn in the show is provided by Ron Vorce as Herod. He sings and dances up a storm in "Herod's Song" with the dancing girls. This number is a show stopper. I have many pleasant memories having played Herod back in 1988 for Warwick Players. The apostles and chorus deliver the finishing touches on this dramatic gut wrenching musical. So for a blockbuster hit by Encore Repertory Company, be sure to catch "Jesus Christ Superstar". Run do not walk to the box office to catch this stunning production.