Review Roundup: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR on Broadway - All The Reviews!
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR opened on Broadway last night, Thursday, March 22. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, directed by Des McAnuff began previews March 1 and is now playing at the Neil Simon Theatre.
The cast features Paul Nolan as Jesus Christ, Josh Young as Judas Iscariot, Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene, Tom Hewitt as Pontius Pilate, Bruce Dow as King Herod, Marcus Nance as Caiaphas and Aaron Walpole as Annas. Also in the cast: Matt Alfano as Thaddeus, Mary Antonini as Elizabeth, Karen Burthwright as Ruth, Jacqueline Burtney as Mary (Martha's Sister), Mark Cassius as Matthew, Ryan Gifford as Bartholomew, Kaylee Harwood as Sarah, Jeremy Kushnier as James the Lesser/Priest, Mike Nadajewski as Peter, Melissa O'Neil as Martha/Maid by the Fire, Laurin Padolina as Rachel, Katrina Reynolds as Esther, Jaz Sealey as Thomas, Jason Sermonia as John, Julius Sermonia as James, Lee Siegel as Simon Zealotes, Jonathan Winsby as Phillip, Sandy Winsby as Andrew, and Nick Cartell, Krista Leis, Matthew Rossoff and Matt Stokes as swings.
In addition to Mr. McAnuff as Director, the creative team includes Choreographer Lisa Shriver, Musical Director Rick Fox, Set Designer Robert Brill, Costume Designer Paul Tazewell, Lighting Designer Howell Binkley, Sound Designer Steve Canyon Kennedy and Video Designer Sean Nieuwenhuis.
Here's what the critics have to say...
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: If this delirious reception for a glitzy depiction of the most influential execution in world history doesn't strike you as remotely absurd, Mr. McAnuff's "Jesus Christ Superstar" may just be the right musical for you. I have to confess to finding the show alternately hilarious and preposterous - if often infectiously melodic - during the two hours' busy traffic of Mr. McAnuff's brisk and lucid staging.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Rather than try to cut through the rock-operatic bombast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music and Tim Rice's lyrics, director Des McAnuff revels in it. Though intermittently moving and seldom dull, this account of Jesus' final days on Earth isn't recommended to anyone with a low tolerance for pomp. Or a headache, for that matter.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg News: "Jesus Christ Superstar" recaptures a moment more precisely than the weak-kneed revival of "Godspell" a few blocks away. It got under my skin.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: This "Superstar" began life at The Stratford Shakespeare Festival and then had a final tuneup at the La Jolla Playhouse. McAnuff deserves credit for trying to make the story relevant -- a ticker at the beginning even counts back the years from 2012 to A.D. 33 for those unfamiliar with history -- but with its defiant fringe kids, boxy set, blinding lights and sneering cynicism, he ends up making it feel more like "Rent."
David Rooney, Reuters / Hollywood Reporter: The hit of last summer's Stratford Shakespeare Festival, where McAnuff is artistic director, the production's key onstage asset is its Judas Iscariot, Josh Young. And given that this account of the final week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is told from his betrayer's point of view, it's fitting that Young's electrifying vocals and brooding presence dominate. ... The 1971 religious rock opera remains a psychologically lite relic of its time, but it gets propulsive treatment in this energized, vocally robust revival.
David Sheward, Backstage: McAnuff deserves credit for an admirable job of pacing-the show flies by at a little less than two hours-and a talented cast displays an array of powerful rock voices. Paul Nolan's Jesus reaches the heights of anguish and yearning without going overboard. Chilina Kennedy has a lovely, liquid tone that subtly imparts Mary Magdalene's need for totally accepting Christ's love and her reluctance to give up her old wanton ways, especially on the gentle "I Don't Know How to Love Him." Special kudos to understudy Jeremy Kushnier, who stepped into the pivotal role of Judas for an ailing Josh Young. Kushnier meets the difficult requirements of the demanding score while making Judas more than a hissable villain. He makes the decision to betray Jesus understandable if not sympathetic. The reliable Tom Hewitt makes for a formidable Pilate. As the high priest Caiaphas, Marcus Nance has a bass that flows like melted butter, while Lee Siegel, as Simon, and Mike Nadajewski, as Peter, have strong moments.
Matt Windman, AM New York: Des McAnuff's exciting new production, which premiered last summer at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, combines a rock-concert atmosphere with an elegant simplicity and runs exactly two hours in length.
Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune: Kushnier, whose work was formidably intense, rich and complex for the work of an understudy, does not come with the same Goth intensity as Young's more sensual Judas, pushing the disloyal Apostle more toward personal panic than besotted manipulation. Both approaches have their strengths and so does Chilina Kennedy's earnest Mary, even if her work seems less central and layered than it did in Canada. But by eschewing any shades of folk or billowy sweetness in favor of an all-consuming need for Jesus' attention, she nails the famous ballads, "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and "Could We Start Again Please?" which is what people want from her the most in the theater and are the two most common questions people ask of Jesus in the world outside.
J. Kelly Nestruck, Toronto Globe & Mail: It is subtle rather than bombastic, and very human-sized. The voices are giant, but the acting is intimate and internal – and, if anything, has become more so since the summer.
Linda Winer, Newsday: The cast is full of strong wailers and howlers. Paul Nolan, as Jesus, has a big voice but not much charisma and, dare we say it, seems a bit of a mope. Jeremy Kushnier, ably replacing the ailing Josh Young as Judas at Tuesday's preview, deftly captures the character's fierce mixed emotions and strenuous, contrasting vocal styles. Tom Hewitt is sardonic and rueful as a debonair Pontius Pilate, Bruce Dow nails the welcome camp as the vaudevillian Herod and Chilina Kennedy makes a credibly concerned asexual Mary Magdalene.
Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: Josh Young's Judas is a standout, not just for his powerful singing but his ability to act through song. Chilina Kennedy's Mary Magdalene, Tom Hewitt's Pontius Pilate and Bruce Dow's goofy King Herod come off just so, and Lisa Shriver's choreography makes for dandy dancing disciples. While this reviVal May not present the superstar of our dreams, it provides solid musical reasons to walk in its ways.
Michael Musto, The Village Voice: McAnuff's presented the show in a sleek, clean way that reduces gimmicks and makes it all move very quickly, while getting to the heart of the betrayed-icon rock operatics.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: McAnuff has assembled a glorious group of voices, including Paul Nolan (Jesus) and Josh Young (Judas) - both extraordinarily good rock screamers - and Chilina Kennedy as hooker-turned-handmaiden Mary Magdalene. (Also impressive: the smooth stylings of Marcus Nance as conniving high priest Caiaphas. It can't be easy to enunciate under that Battlefield Earth hairdo and Matrix-style trench.) Would that Nolan had a little more - or any - charisma to go with his killer vocals on the climactic 'Gethsemane.' But given a choice between a boring Jesus who belts it to the balcony and a charmer who can't hit a high D, I'll take a superstar singer any day.
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: Nolan transcends this one-dimensionality with a strong portrait, musically cresting with "Gethsemane," whose anthem-rock style jars somewhat with the mood of a moment that the Gospels describe as "overwhelmed with sorrow". But if the aim of Lloyd Webber and Rice was literalism, the show's plot – an account of Jesus's final days – would be an old-fashioned Passion Play rather than something that at its Broadway premiere in 1971 could still seem groovy.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: Like any good icon, Nolan's Jesus exerts a pull that's both spiritual and physical. [...] Without a strong underlying theme, the show feels like a busy patchwork of styles and references. [...] Hearing excellent singers deliver these tunes through powerful, crisp amplification is a primal thrill. Next time, McAnuff may even get the story right.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: "Superstar" is a minor and pretty mindless retelling of Jesus' final days. [...] The heartiest hosanna goes to Jeremy Kushnier (filling in for an ailing Josh Young) as Judas, whose betrayal of Jesus gets major focus. Kushnier is a fierce singer and blessed with full-throttle charisma. It was a stunning turn of events: The understudy shall inherit the role - and walk away with the show.