Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jesus Christ Superstar Resurrects Theater


A Lively, Young “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Caldwell Theatre

By Skip Sheffield

There is an infusion of new life into the former Caldwell Theatre Company- at least through July 15.
That’s how long the Entre’Acte Theatrix production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is scheduled to run.
Revolutionary when it was first presented as a rock opera concept album in 1970 and a stage production in 1971, it remains revolutionary today. In essence, “Superstar” is a passion play set to rock music by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice. The play is different from traditional passion plays before it for its emphasis on Jesus as a man, and its take on his traitorous apostle Judas as a tragic, even sympathetic character. Some conservatives condemned the show as “blasphemous.” In South Africa it was banned outright. Now it is a staple of theater companies all over the world.
The Entre’Acte cast, directed by Jessica Kris, is young and fresh and more age-appropriate to the historical characters. In this show the strongest singer is Anthony Nuccio as Judas, which adds even more impact to the character. Nuccio has phenomenal range, flexibility and power in his voice and as actor he has a convincing ability to express his character’s torment.
John Parker is perfectly fine as Jesus, but his unruly wig gets a thumbs-down. It actually becomes a distraction from an otherwise moving performance.
The third most important character in this concept is Mary Magdalene, played by Val Roche. A “fallen woman” who sees Jesus’ divinity, Mary also grows to love him as a man, as is expressed in one of the show’s most popular songs, “I Don’t know How to Love Him.”
There were some recurring technical problems with the sound amplification system which unfortunately detracted from some of the show’s more dramatic moments. The vocal harmonizing by the cast is uniformly good, and the costumes are colorful and funny.
The fate of the beautiful Count deHoernle Theatre, as the building is called, remains clouded. It is laudable that producer Vicki Halmos and the Vicki and Peter Halmos Foundation have stepped up to make use of the facility, but it is doubtful any individual or foundation alone could assume the enormous debt that has accumulated since the opening of the new facility.
If you value live theater, and if you love to see talented young performers giving their all, I urge you to see “Jesus Christ Superstar” while you can. You might be reminded of the show’s timeless message and feel uplifted.
Reserved seats are $25; $15 for groups and children under 12 and $10 student rush (with ID). Call 877-710-7779.

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