Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Jesus Christ Superstar"

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entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"Jesus Christ Superstar"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

North End Players current production is "Jesus Christ Superstar" Andrew Llyod 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, 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 priest 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 the soldiers to Gethsemane and watching the events unfold, Judas realizes his 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 Lynn Nadrowski chooses 54 talented adults and children to pull over this powerful musical which will move you to tears at its heartfelt and moving performances.

Lynn keeps the show flowing from one scene into the other and uses the aisles of the theater for some entrances including the way of the Cross which packs a powerful punch as Jesus carries the huge cross, falls and is whipped by the sadistic and evil guards played wonderfully by John Morris and Jim Clements. She captures the emotions of the audience leading them into tears at the appropriate moments. Music director and keyboardist, Walter Sage leads his 7 piece orchestra, making the rock songs reverberate throughout the theatre. He also taught the cast the intricate melodies, harmonies and tongue twisting lyrics. Choreographer Kathie Morris taught her girl dancers some great dance numbers for the show including the opening segment, the title song and the Herod song. Wow can those girls really move. Lynn and her crew create a fantastic and memorable show and their hard work is rewarded with a standing ovation at the close of the show.

The cast is lead by Willy Beatini who is the best Jesus I have ever seen. He has a dynamite voice which handles the rock side of the spectrum as well as a falsetto for the mellower moments. His "Gethesemane" will leave you in tears as he builds the song to a soaring crescendo and his falsetto delivers the goods in "Poor Jerusalem". Willy not only has an electrifying voice but he is a powerhouse actor, too. The whipping scene, the way of the cross and the crucifixion are outstanding. Hopefully Willy will continue to use his vocal and acting skills in many future endeavors. Bravo.

Jesse Geyer handles the role of Judas, delivering well done rock numbers while doing so. He shows off his range in "Heaven on Their Minds'', "Damned for All Time" , ''Blood Money" and "Judas' Death". The latter is a troubling number which includes Judas' onstage death scene of him hanging himself, invoking strong emotions from the crowd. Jesse also excels in the "Superstar" number where is in all black while the dancing girls are in white. James Geyer, Jesse's younger brother portrays Simon and gets to show off his singing voice in the "Simon Zealotes" song. James previously played Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls". Meaghan Doyle plays Mary Magdalene and gets to show off her lovely voice in "Everything's Alright", the powerful "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and the duet with Peter called "Could We Start Again, Please". She is a resident of Warwick and attended Dean College in Franklin, MA.

Bill Beatini plays Pilate who orders Jesus to be crucified. Bill gets to sing "Pilate's Dream", "Pilate and Christ" and "Trial by Pilate", showing off his strong singing voice as well as delivering the goods in acting the role, too. A comic turn in the show is delivered by real life comic, Frank O'Donnell who plays Herod. He proves he has a great voice with his witty delivery while clad in a black tux. Frank also has a couple of dancing girls who do some 1920's dance steps and kicks during the song.

The villainous high priests in the show are played with wonderful voices and menacing presences by Carl DeSimone as Caiaphas and Billy Flynn as Annas. The other priests include Fred Wyatt, Al Esposito and David Calkins while Peter is played by Michael Jon Cipolla who sings the duet with Meaghan and sings in "Peter's Denial", too. The other apostles, choir members and the youth chorus deliver the finishing touches to this sensational show. So for a blockbuster hit, be sure to catch "Jesus Christ Superstar" in North Providence, before time runs out.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" (24 September - 1 October)
North Providence High School, 1828 Mineral Spring Avenue, NORTH PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401) 569-1984 or 1 (401) 228-6370

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide