JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Is it a Concert or a Musical Production?

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, Is it a Concert or a Musical Production?

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is one of my favorite productions.  The first time I was introduced to it was in 1973 with the film version.  I was mesmerized by the way the story was told using rock music.  It was several years before I saw it on stage, and it was just as impactful.   Over the years different versions have come and gone, some were good, and some were not.  One of the nots was the TV version starring John Legend. Sorry, but it just didn’t do it.

Now, the 50th Anniversary Tour has come to the Cadillac Palace Theatre here in Chicago.  How did it hold up to my expectations? The Choreography was amazing, interesting and new with constant movement.  The band was spot on, but sometimes so loud it was hard to hear the lyrics to the songs. The voices were beyond good, and the cast was really great.

One of the cast members is Chicago born and raised in Markham, SandyRedd. SandyRedd’s role is Ensemble, Soul Singer, and Peter’s Accusers.  She is also the understudy for the role of Judas. Yes, I said Judas. She is the first female to perform the role in a Broadway production.  I asked her how she got the nerve to even ask to audition for the role.  She responded, “So I went to a couple of different key people. I was like, “Yo, I’m Judas. This is my role. I was born for Judas.” But, of course, with us being so comfortable with the different people that we’ve been touring with, I don’t necessarily think anybody took me seriously. So I got some advice from a dear friend of mine, and he was like, “Just put it on tape. Just put it on tape and send it. Once they see it, they can’t unsee it.” I think with any role where they don’t want to change the key, they don’t want to change the dynamic of the role, it’s hard for somebody to see a female play a very strong, very dominant male role.”

So, she sent the tape, didn’t change the key, blew them away, and got one of the understudy spots.  If you are able to see the show on Saturday, July 30th at the matinee performance you will see SandyRedd perform the role of Judas.

Now my thoughts on the production as a whole. With all the great voices, choreography, set, costumes, and music, the production feels more like a concert than a musical with a meaning.  There were only a few of the main characters that I felt any emotion.

Omar Lopez Cepero (Judas) and the company of the North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman, Murphymade

  Omar Lopez-Cepero as Judas was very good and even with the mic in hand, he showed emotion. I felt his dilemma in betraying Jesus.  Jenna Rubaii’s Mary was perfect. She was vulnerable and her voice is beautiful.  The character of Pilate is played by Tommy Sherlock. I have always loved that character in general because of the turmoil he goes through in condemning Jesus plus you see him change. 

Aaron Lavigne (Jesus) and the company of the North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. Photo by Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman, MurphyMade

I would have loved Aaron LaVigne as Jesus if he could have been allowed to be Jesus and not some rock star. His voice is superb, however, every time he picked up the guitar to play, he wasn’t Jesus anymore, he was just some guy singing a song.  The magic for me and some others I spoke with is that the role of Jesus is different for all the other characters in the play.  In the film, we seek the actors to get off the bus and prepare to shoot a film, we know it isn’t real, however, in the end, everyone gets on the bus except the person who played Jesus.  You can see that the cast had been changed.  In stage plays I have seen that affected me was when Jesus was played in a way that he was a part of the show but still separate.  The way this production is directed, I felt nothing during the crucifixion, in fact, the band and moaning were so loud you couldn’t hear the words spoken on the cross. 

I did love the ending with Jesus and Judas.  It was different and a topic for conversation.  Was Judas forgiven?  You will have to see the production for yourself. Visit www.broadwayinchicago.com for more information on the show. 

All in all, I give the 50th Anniversary Tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR 4 out of 5 winks of the EYE!

Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!

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