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BWW Review: THE BUZZ IS ABOUT JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Mickey's Black Box At Rock Lititz

Lancaster County presents a fresh take on the rock musical.

BWW Review: THE BUZZ IS ABOUT JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR  at Mickey's Black Box At Rock Lititz When Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice issued the concept album for JESUSE CHRIST SUPERSTAR, they immediately had a hit on their hands. They also staged it for Broadway and wound up mired in controversy - was it anti-Semitic? Was it sacrilegious? Should the Bible be told through rock music? Fifty - yes, fifty (some of us can feel our own age remembering the fuss and the hype) years later, it's still sacrilegious to some conservative Christian groups, but to most of us, it's nice, but a bit dated.

The Australian update of JCS tried freshening things up by having the audiences post social media in the theatre to be participants in "spreading the buzz" as the ensemble puts it. When the entire audience is asked to be on their cell phones during the show, it's hard to catch everyone and everything on stage. Shoshanna Bean found a new way to do it in 2017, having felt called to have a female Jesus and Judas dynamic. The result was a spectacular but not heavily heralded concept album of its own. It's since been staged in a few places with all-female casts

The production at Mickey's Black Box in Lititz, directed and choreographed by Rebecca Gentry, has a female Jesus, played by local stage veteran Lindsay Bretz-Morgan in what may just be the best work she's done. Her acting as well as her singing is at a peak here. She conveys to the audience quite physically, as well as emotionally, just how painful it is to try to bring a message to the world. Love hurts, and she shows it. Michael Zorger, an inspired casting for Judas, carries the "you've lost your original message and I resent it" burden perfectly, and, fortunately, without the sense of any gender dynamic in play against a female Jesus.

Corey Landis sings Mary Magdalene as an earth mother, nurturing the nurturer that is Jesus. Even in her stunning "I Don't Know How to Love Him" there's no real romantic dynamic as much as there is a sense of floundering for how to handle the difficult person she's been caretaking for. How do you protect someone who insists on draining themselves daily?

The cast is as diverse as any seen on an area stage, if not more so. There are men and women in this gender-blind cast with white, Black, and Hispanic singers, straight and gay performers - the stage here is the great meeting place of all people, just as Jesus' city of Jerusalem was in its day. The costuming isn't an attempt to re-create the hippie scene of the original production, and it's both eye catching and attractive. Though, like the youth culture of the early Seventies, it is perhaps shocking to an older audience. It's all-black for the ensemble with an air of goths and bikers meeting at a BDSM club for a really great party. As with the casting, it's glorious. Bretz-Morgan's Jesus stands out in white with gray boots; Mary is in golden tones, Judas in blood-red, and Pontius Pilate - Brian Fasnocht- plays an excellent performance in a purple leather coat. Herod, Russ Reed, naturally stands out and is outstanding in formal black and sequins, playing show host with a smarmy air of Richard Dawson's character in The Running Man, while adding a dance cane and chorus girls.

Altogether, it's an inspiring production in its beautifully diverse casting, its message, and with the talent on stage and in the band led by Ryan Dean Schoening. What ultimately stands out is a world-weary Jesus, who, in three years, becomes used to being consumed - by the ill who tear at Jesus to be cured, by apostles jockeying for attention and favor, by too much to do and not enough time to do it. Bretz-Morgan's "for all you care, this bread could be my body" at the Passover seder with the apostles (the show was unintentionally opening on the night of the first seder, which is coincidentally appropriate timing) conveys fully, and blatantly ties together all of what Jesus clearly has been seeing and feeling through the journey.

Unfortunately, the show is Easter weekend only - and is already standing-room only; the small venue is already packed by area theatre-goers in the know. Have a joyous Easter and Passover weekend.



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From This Author - Marakay Rogers