BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Just Off Broadway is a Beautiful and Creative Take on an Old Classic
It seems fitting that I would attend Just Off Broadway's thrilling performance of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR on the 41st anniversary of the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber show. Their production was the perfect way to celebrate the beauty and importance of the piece. You could say that I was predisposed to love it since it is my all-time favorite show, but I don't think it's that. JOB's pared down production perfectly captures the story and allows this fantastic cast to shine.
Starting with a creatively choreographed (Katie Gerstmyer) dance to the overture, the cast showed that they were not only good singers but also talented dancers. From there, Jim Gerhardt as Judas began the show singing "Heaven on their Minds." He's a well-cast Judas. Thanks to Gerhardt's emphatic voice and small acting choices, his Judas is empathetic. You definitely feel the sense that he's actually trying to help keep Jesus and his apostles out of the watchful eye of the rulers.
Speaking of Jesus, Luis "Matty" Montes playing him, provides a wonderful interpretation of the Lord. The audience feels each and every emotion, whether it is pain, anger or love for his friends. Montes and Jennifer Lutz, playing Mary Magdalene have a beautiful chemistry. Lutz is wonderfully talented, and her songs provide some of the more emotional and beautiful moments in the production.
Playing the men who ultimately seal Jesus' fate is Mike Zellhofer as a perfectly angry yet resolute Pilate, and a flamboyant and funny Atticus Emerson as Herod. As always, "Herod's Song" - the one bit of light in a very dark second act - is a highlight. Emerson embraces the ridiculousness and the fun of the song. He joyfully taunts Jesus while dancing with the women in his harem, all with a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye.
While the ensemble is quite large, they deserve a great deal of credit for enhancing the production. The diverse members change characters quickly and flawlessly - often rotating from Jesus' disciples to Pharisees in just a few minutes. With just a few minor costume changes, they move in and out seamlessly. Ellen Knupp and Tina James designed the costumes, all shades of black and white, with just a few additional colors throughout. This design choice definitely helps the quick changes, as items are added and lost depending on the characters they're playing.
A special call out needs to made to the co-directors Jason Crawford Samios-Uy and Patrick Jay Golden. Samios-Uy and Golden helped to create a world for the cast that allows them to shine. Their vision for the often-done musical is very different from the many I've seen, which is a testament to the work they and their team have done. They are able to creatively use a beautifully painted but sparse set (Theresa Bonvegna), and simple costumes to tell a complicated story to bring Webber's classic story to life in a beautifully creative way. Their attention to small details, as well as their focus on the beautiful words and score make their production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR a must see!
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR plays weekends through October 21, 2018. | 4301 Raspe Ave, Baltimore MD, 21206.