Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Jesus Christ Superstar"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"Jesus Christ Superstar"

By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Directed by Scott Gagnon
Musical Director Rob Goldman
Choreography by Jennifer Condon

Set Design by Sam Martinborough
Lighting Design by Heidi Hinkel
Assistant Lighting Designer Paul O'Shaugnessy
Sound Design by Vladimir Barrone
Costume Design by Diane E. M. Brainerd
Stage Manager David Brainerd

Judas.................................................................Chuck Walsh
Jesus..................................................................John Raftery
Simon.............................................................David DaCosta
Mary Magdalene..............................................Danielle Perry
Herod.................................................................Ray O'Hare
Ciaphus........................................................Arthur O'Malley
Pilate...........................................................Steven Littlehale
Thaddaeus/Featured Dancer/Flute #2............Jessica Shulman
Phillip/Featured Dancer...................Linda Catherine Sughrue
James The Elder..................................Rebekah Montgomery
James The Younger/Featured Dancer...................Aly Trasher
John.................................................................Jason Whiting
Andrew.............................................................Bobbi Carrey
Peter..................................................................Derek Clark
Thomas/Guard.................................................Devin Collins
Bart/Maid by the fire.................................Sarah Consentino
Matthew/Guard.............................................Rick Copeland
Annas..........................................................Jonathan Brody
Priest #1.............................................................Jim Ansart
Priest #2..........................................................Rob O'Hare
Priest #3............................................................Bill Bowen
Ensemble/Featured Dancer...........................Monica Bruno
Ensemble/Pilate's Wife................................Rachel Carney
Guard #1/Ensemble...................................Darrick Jackson
Ensemble/Flute #1..................................Laura Kandziolka
Ensemble..................................................Colleen Browne
Ensemble.........................................................Kami Crary

Orchestra
Keyboard..............................Peter Bufano
Guitar..................................Doug Trasher
Bass...........Nick Francese, Craig Chisholm
Drums...............................Steve Goldman
Flute...Laura Kandziolka, Jessica Shulman


The Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber classic "Jesus Christ Superstar" may have been intended as a modern mystery play. Just as the origins of western theater were illustrated sermons intended to reach the illiterate, this spectacle --- part Easter pageant, part rock concert, part ironic commentary --- may have hoped to reach a jaded t-v/rock generation with old verities in a new bottle. The problem of course is holding all those disparate intentions in a coherently unified whole. At the Footlight Club Director Scott Gagnon, Music Director Rob Goldman and Choreographer Jennifer Condon have done exactly that, and everyone connected with the show apparently worked with the selfless dedicated attention to detail of a medieval crew building a cathedral. It all fits, powerfully, meaningfully together.

Gagnon has put his entire cast in masks, which lends an unreal distance to the proceedings and heightens the feeling of pageantry. He and Condon move masses about on stage with precise, stylized, almost abstract movements and gestures that further separate these eternal characters from contemporary reality, as well as allowing for considerable sex-blind casting of so many men. Diane E. M. Brainerd's carefully colored and textured costumes under Heidi Hinkle's lushly colored lighting suggest time past --- even when dancing girls in lacy harem-pants become part of the action. And Goldman accompanies the singing (excellently handled by Vladimir Barrone's sound design) largely with a restlessly expressive rhythm section and a minimum of screech guitar and keyboard. The action, lively or solid by turns, is always focused on Sam Martinborough's spare set-piece: a blocky triangular altar dominated by the life-sized cross toward which everything tends. (The set itself has a few brilliant surprises in store as well.)

Those masks become an impressive dramatic device when Chuck Walsh as Judas pulls it off almost immediately to sing his doubts about "all this going horribly wrong". He and John Raftery's Jesus argue, sometimes masked, sometimes not. Without his white mask, Jesus is always all too vulnerably human, and Steve Littlehale's Pilate stares at him through an exaggerated lorgnette. Ray O'Hare's jazzily witty Herod's is a feathery Greek comedy mask, while the Priests and Pharisees demanding crucifixion sport death-white long-nosed masks of sternly gull-like determination. And it is a supreme dramatic moment when, at curtain-call, each heiratic figure doffs the mask to reveal a smiling actor taking each greatly-deserved bow.

As sharply focused spectacle, as supremely moving cantata, and as stunning theater, this is a massively impressive show. As story --- it might be best to bring along your New Testament; it's a little hard to tell the players in this Webber-Rice classic without a score-card. But if like me your one true god is Thespis, you won't mind in the least.

Love,
===Anon.


"Jesus Christ Superstar" (till 27 November)
The Footlight Club
7A Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN
1(617)524-3200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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