North Shore Music Theatre's current production is "Jesus Christ Superstar", Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera. 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 became 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, 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 money lenders and the merchants, then begging to be left alone when a crowd of cripples surround him to be healed, Judas is more convinced that Jesus is just a man and nothing more. He determines that Jesus is dangerous and must be stopped. Judas goes to the priests and gives them all the information they need to capture Jesus. 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/choreographer Robert Johanson puts together a blockbuster hit with his 28 multitalented cast members and one of the best shows of North Shore's season. This heartfelt and moving musical earns it's well deserved standing ovation at the close of the show. Bravo on a job very well done.
Robert's inventive blocking lets the audience in the round see almost every moment of the show. His use of the aisles is perfect with characters confronting each other as they are exiting up the aisle. "Everything's Alright is a perfect example of the chorus in each of the aisles while singing and dancing. Robert's direction is brilliant as is his choreography. He obtains the tears and the laughter at the appropriate moments and the Crucifixion and the hanging scenes are outstanding. All the dance numbers are excellent and in the title number he has almost everyone in the cast dancing up a storm that stops the show with its power. Robert spent 20 years as the artistic director at the Paper Mill Playhouse and his expertise shines through in this magnificent production. The musical director, Matthew Smedal obtains the perfect harmonic blend of voices and orchestration. Everyone in this show can sing wonderfully as well as act and dance beautifully, too. The set pieces by Campbell Baird and the costumes by Gregory Poplyk are splendid as is the lighting by Jack Mehler. The red spot light on Jesus during emotional scenes is stunning, too.
This cast is lead by Nicholas Rodriguez who is one of the best Jesus' I have ever seen. He embodies this role from his first entrance clad in his white robes to the Crucifixion. Nicholas' charisma and outstanding talent captures the hearts of the audience from start to finish. His fantastic tenor voice handles the rock side of the score as well as the mellower moments with an excellent falsetto. Nicholas does an obligato in "Hosanna" that is unbelievable while his rendition of "Gethsemane" builds to a soaring crescendo and his falsetto in "Poor Jerusalem" is wonderful, too. Nicholas' powerhouse acting in this role is fabulous and a role on Broadway should be coming his way very soon with all his talent.
Delisco is also excellent as Judas, selling all his songs with his powerful rock voice. His songs include "Heaven On their Mind", "Strange Thing Mystifying", "Damned for All Time", "Judas' Death" where he hangs himself and in the title number while clad in a rock performers outfit. In this latter number, Delisco gets to show off his topnotch dancing prowess. He and Nicholas excel as adversaries in this show. Rona Figueroa is a wonderful Mary Magdalene. She shows off her lovely singing voice in "Everything's Alright" where she tries to sooth Jesus after a trying day, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" where she confronts her hidden feelings for him and in the duet with Peter, "Could We Start Again Please" which the chorus joins in on with some gorgeous harmonies at the end of it.
Pilate is well played by John Hickok. He sings the mellow "Pilate's Dream" and the rock numbers, "Pilate and Christ" and Trial by Pilate" which soars off the scale with high B flats. A comic turn in the show is provided by Wayne Pretlow as Herod. He starts his number sitting in a swimming pool and dances in it and across it during the song. Wayne stops the show with his hilarious antics and those of his 3 dancing girls and one dancing boy. Peter is well played by Colin Donnell who shows off his voice in "Peter" Denial" and in the duet with Rona. Darryl Calmese Jr. does a great job as Simon who dances up a storm in "Simon Zealotes". Constantine Germanacos as John and Shana Carr as the Virgin Mary give touching portrayals. The villains of the show are Caiaphas and Annas played by Philip Lamar Boykin and Michael Brian Dunn. Philip has the most amazing basso profundo voice I have ever heard while Michael has a strong tenor voice. Kudos to the rest of the cast including some children who do a great job throughout the show especially in the "Superstar" number. So be sure you catch "Jesus Christ Superstar" the must see show of this season in Beverly, MA before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.