BWW Review: 50th Anniversary National Tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Begins at the Landmark Theatre

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BWW Review: 50th Anniversary National Tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Begins at the Landmark Theatre
The company of the 50th anniversary touring production of
Jesus Christ Superstar.
Photo by Evan Zimmerman, MurphyMade.

The 50th anniversary national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar has now officially begun at Syracuse's Landmark Theatre. The iconic rock opera has intoxicating energy, intense choreography, and killer vocals under the direction of Timothy Sheader. The expression, the emotion, and mainly the choreography takes center stage in this new tour.

The iconic musical of course features lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The rock opera is basically all musical numbers with little to no dialogue and the story is loosely based on the Gospels' accounts of the last week of Jesus's life. It begins with the arrival of Jesus and his disciples and ends with the crucifixion. The story depicts relationships and struggles that are not present in the Bible such as interpersonal and political issues between Judas and Jesus. Quite a few musical numbers center on Judas and his problem with the direction Jesus is giving to his disciples.

The new interpretation of the musical makes the audience feel like they are right in the middle of a rock concert. The staging, the lights, the costumes, the choreography, use of hand-held microphones, and the use of instruments allow for of plenty expression from the entire cast. The energy is intoxicating and the choreography by Drew Mconie is refreshing.

The new tour is obviously updated, especially visually, and the story itself is quite timeless as well as the rock inspired musical numbers. It is now fifty years since the musical's first performance, but the music still feels modern, edgy, and relevant.

The look and feel of this tour has a definite modern and industrial look thanks to scenic, hair, and costume designer Tom Scutt. The costuming features street wear or something that you would see at a rap concert with much of the ensemble wearing baggy pants, hoodies, sneakers, etc. However, the flowing and loose white and grey fabric at times made it feel like it was traditional costuming. The creativity and artistic thought of the costuming translates well.

Scutt's set design features a very industrial look with three levels and center platform; however, mostly the platform, bottom, and mid-level are used by the performers and the orchestra. The eleven-person orchestra is placed on the second level under the music direction of Shawn Gough. The orchestra plays Webber's electrifying music with full force, like stated before, you feel like you are in the middle of a rock concert. Some of the actors also assist in playing instruments including Jesus who plays guitar during the ballad "Gethsemane."

The refreshing, intense, and irresistible choreography by Drew Mconie stole the show. The expression and emotion from the entire cast was perfection as was their spot-on chemistry. However, it was the Riot Girl, Sarah Parker that lit up the stage with her intricate and truly passionate movement.

The stellar voices from the cast ring out with true power. "Hosanna" was a definite favorite number. Aaron LaVigne as Jesus brings the house down with his emotional performance of "Gethsemane" as he plays guitar and sings in front of mic stand. His humble stage presence, passionate vocals, and superb expression makes for an incredibly memorable performance. His vocals soar on those numbers requiring a high rock belt.

James Delisco Beeks as Judas sings a memorable version of "Heaven on their Minds" and delivers an intense performance in "Judas' Death." His rock vocals brought the house down.

Jenna Rubaii's silky smooth vocals makes her ideal for the role of Mary as she delivers a smooth, seductive rendition of "Everything's Alright." Rubaii standout moment is of course the number "I Don't Know How to Love Him" as she showcases her commanding and emotional stage presence.

Other standouts include Alvin Crawford's bass vocals as Caiaphas and Tyce Green's tenor as Annas. Tommy Sherlock gave it his all with his fierce performance of Pilate. Tommy McDowell stood out as Peter as he played guitar and sang a very memorable rendition of "Could We Start Again Pleas" with Jenna Rubaii as Mary.

Jesus Christ Superstar pushes boundaries and feels more like a rock concert with the smoke, lights, and microphones in hand (which were often distracting and at times hindered performances). It will offend some people, especially the modernized look and portrayal of Jesus, as well as the fact that much of the story does stray from scripture. However, it does what musical theatre should by taking an artistic approach to a topic or person, adding memorable tunes, and showcasing incredible talent on stage. It is a spectacle. In the end, this is an iconic show that many enjoy and the choreography for the 50th anniversary national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar is a showstopper.

Running time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

Jesus Christ Superstar the 50th anniversary national tour runs through October 4, 2019 in Syracuse, New York's Landmark Theatre as part of the 2019-2020 season of Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series Broadway in Syracuse. For tickets and information on the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar click here. For tickets and information on the Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series Broadway in Syracuse click here

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From This Author Natasha Ashley