Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Rises at the Ohio Theatre for 50th Anniversary Tour

BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Rises at the Ohio Theatre

By: Oct. 04, 2023
Jesus Christ Superstar (Non-Equity) Show Information
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Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Rises at the Ohio Theatre for 50th Anniversary Tour
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Jesus Christ Superstar (Non-Equity)
Elvie Ellis and Company
Photo Credit: Evan Zimmerman

The iconic JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR rises triumphantly at the Ohio Theatre as part of its reimagined 50th Anniversary tour.  Returning to its rock-album roots with a focus more on rock music than story, the concert spectacle moves at a swift 90 minute pace with no intermission, proving to Columbus audiences that Jesus’ rockstar appeal is eternal, even at 50.

With award-winning productions on stage and screen since 1971, and featuring multiple successful recordings and radio broadcasts including Billboard Album of the Year, not to mention garnering the highest TV ratings and critical acclaim of any live musical event with over 9.6 million viewers, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is a proven musical phenomenon with a world-wide fan base.  This version strips down the story and instead celebrates the music that has spanned decades.

Featuring lyrics and music by Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar, and Tony winners Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the timeless score exudes a raw, fibrous power that portrays Christ’s tormented passion and Judas’s primal internal thoughts leading up to Christ’s death.

From the first stroke of the piercing electric strings to the relentless percussion in the overture which magnificently sets the tone for this heart-pounding concert, we undoubtedly have high expectations for the performers.  But do they live up to the hype?

While there were truly moments of greatness and vocal genius, if you’re expecting to watch a conventional musical theatre performance with a riveting story, you may be disappointed.  You will not be as emotionally connected to this version and will feel rushed through the scenes which lacks depth and character development.  This anniversary tour, directed by Timothy Sheader, is written, cast, and performed as a rock album with broadway-like lighting, stage effects, and choreography.  Even the singers perform using mic stands or hand-helds just as rock singers would.  

It is only when Mary takes the stage (especially in “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” – performed exquisitely by Jaden Dominique) that we are enveloped with the warmth and sincerity of her character which serves as an emotional breath between the high pitched screaming, violence, and torment of Christ and Judas.  Dominique delivers a true angst and yearning with a lush, glorious voice.

Jesus Christ Superstar (Non-Equity)
Jack Hopefull and Elvie Ellis
Photo Credit: Evan Zimmerman

As Jesus, Joshua Bess initially presents more as a yoga instructor – lanky and timid, donning sloppy clothes and a man-bun.  It’s not until later in the show that we finally witness the power of his voice in “The Last Supper” and “Gethsemane.”  Elvie Ellis as Judas, on the other hand, has a powerful presence right from the start, masterfully commanding the stage with his appearance and vocal range while still portraying as a sympathetic character.

Grant Hodges (Caiaphas), Alex Stone (Pontius Pilate), and Alec Diem (Herod) all impressively deliver just the right amount of intensity to their respective roles, as does the entire cast.

The static industrial set design by Tom Scutt is simple yet effective, making use of scaffolding and steps with different levels for the singers and band.  The set also includes a large slanted cross laying on the ground for performers to walk on, climb over, or use as the table in The Last Supper.  The lighting is exactly as it should be – dark, ominous, and dramatic with flashes of light in true rock concert format.

Choreography by Drew McOnie is frenzied, vigorous, and challenging, but the ensemble/backup dancers consistently deliver in unison to perfection.  

The dramatic highlight of the show is the SUPERSTAR fanfare following Jesus’ brutal 39 lashes (used with gold glitter to represent the beatings).  Even if you lose the theme as a result of a rushed and condensed performance, you will most certainly feel the climax of that moment.

While lovers of the musical theatre production may be disappointed in the lack of story and character development, this energetic 50th Anniversary Tour is an adrenaline-filled rock concert that celebrates the legendary music and lyrics the way Sir Andrew and Tim Rice always intended.  If you are a fan of the music itself, you will love this show.

The reimagined 50th Anniversary tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is now playing at the Ohio Theatre in Columbus through October 8th. Tickets are available at www.BroadwayInColumbus.com, by calling 614-469-0939 or visiting the CBUSArts Ticket Center at the Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.). Tickets start at $39. Ticket buyers are reminded that the Ohio Theatre, CAPA and www.BroadwayInColumbus.com are the only official retail ticket outlets for all performances at the Ohio Theatre.




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