NY1 Theater Review: "Jesus Christ Superstar"
The 1970s rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar" is back on Broadway courtesy of The Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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Jesus Christ may be a superstar, but in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Jesus Christ Superstar" it's Judas who takes the lead. Whether you'd call it the "Judas curse" or simply bad luck, the actor playing Judas, Josh Young, was unfortunately sidelined with vocal problems when I attended. So my take on the production may be a bit skewed.
It sounded great, but ironically, while Josh's understudy, a terrific Jeremy Kushnier, found some divine inspiration, the show seemed a little off-kilter.
Director Des McAnuff, who did wonders with another rock-infused musical, "The Who's Tommy," plied his considerable gifts to "Superstar," re-envisioning the show as a love triangle of sorts with Judas and Mary Magdalene, both devoted to Jesus, vying for his attention.
While playing down the bohemian sensibilities from earlier stagings, he capitalizes on the story's more relevant anti-establishment tilt. Conceptually, it's ideal. The scaffolding sets and video projections put a contemporary spin on this timeless story.
But "Superstar," which began life not as theater but as a concept album, has always been a challenge to mount. While this staging may be the best yet, the show doesn't always connect.
The singing is all rock-solid but there's an unevenness to the performances. Paul Nolan, a charismatic Jesus, is frustratingly subdued at times, creating a distancing effect. Chilina Kennedy's Mary is lovely but lacking passion. Marcus Nance's glorious baritone makes a perfect Caiaphas. And as the villainous Pilate, Tom Hewitt is heaven-sent.
Seeing "Jesus Christ Superstar" again is like a religious experience for me, having grown up on the album and knowing every note and lyric. I wish the ensemble could have clicked better, but then given the difficulties of translating that brilliant album to the stage, I may be asking for a miracle.