Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Jesus Christ Superstar"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone

"Jesus Christ Superstar"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bay Colony Productions current show 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 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. The play is a baroque fusion 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/choreographer Dori Bryan and musical director Rob Goldman ( who recently recovered from a heart attack in June) choose 33 talented performers to pull off this powerful musical which will move you to tears at its heartfelt and moving performances.

Dori keeps the show flowing from one scene into another. She creates many different dance numbers and even the high priests move in this show. Dori sets the show in current day so Dan Kozar's costumes reflect this. He always pays great attention to every detail of the shows costuming. He also designed the massive set with many platforms which look like marble as the performers climb all over it. The lighting design and tech director is Michael Teixeira while the sound is well handled by Ed DiMarzio, They handle the massive production with ease. Dori creates many picture postcard moments in the show especially the Last Supper scene. The group numbers sparkle and shine with the cast's dancing in perfect unison to her dance steps. Rob Goldman leads his fantastic orchestra wonderfully. He also taught the cast the intricate melodies, harmonies and tongue twisting lyrics. Dori has Judas standing above the crowd in certain scenes to show his disdain for the happenings in town. A tap dance and cakewalk style dance standout in the Herod scene with the girls and him. (He is clad in a white tux jacket with a red tie which symbolizes Satan's influence on the happenings. Also some of the girls are in scanty red outfits, too.) Dori, Rob and their crew create a fantastic and memorable show and their hard work is rewarded by a standing ovation at the close of the show.

The cast is lead by Michael Warner who is one of the best Jesus' I have ever seen. He has a dynamite 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 as he climbs all over the stage while his falsetto delivers the goods in "Poor Jerusalem". (There is a moving saxophone solo in this number.) Michael 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. (I took so many notes that night that it is impossible to use them all.) Bravo.

Chas Kircher is dynamite in the role of Judas. He is clad in a black leather jacket and after his death, he wears a red t-shirt, showing his descent into hell. Chas shows off his strong tenor voice and 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. (The stage is enveloped in red light during this scene.) Chas also excels in the "Superstar" number where he struts his stuff with the girls in red and black costumes. James Runner III portrays Simon and gets to show off his singing voice in the "Simon Zealotes" song. Hannah MacDonald plays Mary Magdalene and gets to show off her lovely singing voice in "Everything's Alright", the powerful ballad "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and the wonderful duet with Peter called "Could We Start Again, Please". Recent Hofstra University graduate, Kevin Hanley who has a superb tenor voice plays Peter. He gets to show off his voice in many numbers as well as the duet with Hannah and in "Peter's Denial", too. Steve Dooner plays Pilate who orders Jesus to be crucified. He gets to sing "Pilate's Dream" while wearing a bathrobe and "Pilate and Christ" and "Trial by Pilate" while dressed as a storm trooper. Steve's powerful singing voice is wonderful to behold in these numbers and he delivers strong acting in the role, too. A comic turn in this show is by Sean Sullivan who plays Herod. His singing and dancing are excellent.

The villainous high priests in the show are played with wonderful voices and menacing presences by Bill Roberts as Caiaphas and Chris DiOrio as Annas. (He lost so much weight recently that I didn't recognize him at first) Dori has them surround Judas while entrapping him in their snare. The other priest include Donald Grady, Roger MacDonald and Philip Sullivan. The apostles and chorus deliver the finishing touches to this emotional show. So for a blockbuster hit, be sure to catch "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Foxboro, before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" (1 - 10 August)
@ Orpheum Theatre, 1 School Street, FOXBORO MA
1 (508)543-ARTS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide