Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Jesus Christ Superstar"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone

"Jesus Christ Superstar"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Theatre Works current show at the Stadium Theatre 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 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 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 the 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 that, 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 Jesus prisoner without risking violence by the mob. After leading them to Gethsemane and watching the events unfold, Judas realizes his actions have become the instrument of Jesus' martyrdom. Furious that Jesus will be remembered as a "Superstar", Judas kills 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. The play is a combination of styles, rock rhythm with ballad narrative, dramatic characterization with rollicking choreography, and operatic star performances that together succeed in communicating a humble theme of love and acceptance. Sacred themes are fused with ancient political history and modern sensibilities into a new form of theater art. Director Paul Adam and musical director Sue McClain choose 29 talented performers to pull off this powerful musical which will move you to tears at its heartfelt and moving performances.

Paul keeps the action flowing from one scene to the next. He creates many picture postcard moments in the show especially the Last Supper tableau and Crucifixion. Paul captures the emotions of the audience leading them into tears at the appropriate moments. Music director Sue leads her topnotch orchestra and taught the cast the intricate melodies, harmonies and tongue twisting lyrics. Paul also does the fantastic lighting for the show. The terrific choreography is by Stephanie Bourborniere and Justine Dee and it includes soft shoe, Charleston and many others. The set is by Mark Anderson and all the costumes are by Sharon Charette. The cast is lead by Edward Benjamin III as Jesus. He has a splendid tenor voice which handles the rock side of the spectrum 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, does a super job on "Hosanna" and he uses his falsetto in "Poor Jerusalem". Ed not only has topnotch vocal ability but is a powerful actor in this role. Some of his outstanding moments include the, Last Supper, whipping scene and the crucifixion.

Brian Lopes is dynamic in the role of Judas. He shows off his powerhouse tenor voice and range in "Heaven on Their Minds", "Damned for All Time", "Blood Money" and "Judas' Death" The latter is a troubling song which includes Judas' death scene. Brian also excels in the "Superstar" number where he sings and dances up a storm with the dancing girls. He and Ed are fantastic as adversaries. Lisa Ziniti is fabulous as Mary Magdalene. She has a superb soprano voice which she uses 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 confronts her hidden feelings for him and the rousing emotionally charged duet with Peter called "Could We Start Again, Please" which the chorus joins in on with some lovely harmonies in it. Lisa graduated from the Hartt School of Music. I performed with her in "The Fantasticks" back in 1998 and last saw her as Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes" at Bishop Feehan in 2001. James Archambeault who has a topnotch tenor voice plays Peter. He and Lisa do a terrific job on this duet. James also handles "Peter's Denial" with flair. Simon Zealotes is played by Josh Smith who gets to show off his strong singing voice in the "Simon Zealotes" number with the chorus. He and the chorus do a marvelous dance to it. Pilate is wonderfully played by Gregory Bonin. He has a powerful voice and 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 Jared Sell as Herod as he sings and dances to his "Herod's Song" with dancing girls. The villainous high priests in the show are played with wonderful voices and menacing presences by Frank Wilmoth as Caiaphas and Steve Perry as Annas and Mark Anderson as a high priest.The apostles and chorus deliver the finishing touches to this emotional show. I have happy memories of this show having played Herod back in 1988. So for a blockbuster hit, be sure to catch "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Woonsocket before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" (15 - 17 April)
THEATRE WORKS
@ Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, WOONSOCKET RI
1 (401)762-4545

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