Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Porthouse Theatre - KSU School Of Theatre And Dance

Dynamic production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Porthouse.

By: Jun. 18, 2024
Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Porthouse Theatre - KSU School Of Theatre And Dance
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Combine focused direction by Terri Kent, dynamic choreography by Martin Cespedes, with a talented cast, and the result is the high quality, crowd-enveloping JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, now on stage at Kent State University’s Porthouse Theatre, on the grounds of Blossom Center.

JCSUPERSTAR is a rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice.  It is loosely based on “the Gospels’ account of the Passion.”  It “adds a texture above the religious text by examining the motives and psychological underpinnings of not only Jesus, but of Judas, who it spotlights acted as he did because he was dissatisfied with the direction Jesus was steering his disciples, and not for the gold he was given. 

In spite of its cult following, JCSUPERSTAR is a show with a history of controversy.  It has been condemned by some religious groups, as well as non-believers.  

Some of the controversy is based on comments made by the script’s lyricist, Tim Rice, who once said, “It happens that we don't see Christ as God but simply the right man at the right time at the right place.”  

Some Christians cried out that the comment was blasphemous and also complained that the characterization of Judas was too sympathetic, and that Jesus was misinterpreted.  The lack of resurrection of Jesus was also a point of contention as was the insertion of contemporary attitudes, slang and illusions to modern day life.  

Jewish organizations claim that some of the illusions bolster antisemitism.  (I’m sure the costume choices and jewelry laden jackets for a Temple scene which seems to mock the male Orthodox community, will not endear the production to some.)

There is no controversy about the music.  The score is eclectic and powerful.  It is 80’s rock at its finest.  Songs include such classics as “Everything’s Alright,” “Hosanna,” “I Don’t Know How to Love him,” “What’s the Buzz” and, “Superstar,”

Released as a concept album, before it was staged, it was already a smash before it hit the theatrical boards.  When it finally opened, it ran for eight years in London and was the country’s longest-running show for almost a decade.
In 2016, celebrating 45 years since the musical debuted on Broadway, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR returned to London.  It is this reconceived script that is now at Porthouse.
The Porthouse staging is often breath taking.  The viewer is wrapped in stimulating lighting and exciting visual displays.  The choreography is amazing.  Cespedes has outdone himself.  Almost every number has showstopping moment.  He has honed the skills of this cast, probably giving the mainly student performers a master class in movement.  Exceptional dancing is displayed in “Hosanna,” “The Temple,” “The Arrest,” “Trial Before Pilate/39 Lashes,” and “Superstar.”

Enrique Miguel underplays the role of Jesus for positive effect.   Matthew
Gittins is outstanding as Judas.  He left a clear image of a philosophically tortured Judas, caught between his values and loyalty his to Jesus.  

Dominic Young was impressive as Peter.  Madison Shannon is vocally, physically and emotionally-correct as Mary Magdalene. Tim Culver, a “faye” vision in a voluminous purple costume, stops the show with his exaggerated version of “Pilate and Christ.”

The entire cast had strong vocal voices and carried out the complicated choreography with competence.  

Jennifer Korecki has her musicians underscoring rather than dominating the action, so the audience recognizes that they are at a musical, not a rock concert.
Capsule judgment:  The staging, choreography and emotional values of the controversial show are well developed.  No matter your philosophical bent, this production will leave a positive understanding of the value of a well-done theatrical presentation!  Go see!
Tickets for JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, which runs through June 29, 2024 can be obtained by going to or calling 330-929-4416 or 330-672-3884.


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