Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Turns 50 at Clowes Memorial Hall

The 50th anniversary production is on-stage for a limited time only!

Jesus Christ SuperstarThe 1970's rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar celebrated its 50th anniversary this year and the anniversary tour is currently at Clowes Memorial Hall in Indianapolis. This iconic musical has always been one of our favorites, and we've have lost count of how many times we've seen it. This touring production exceeded every one of our very high expectations. While it remained true to the original version, some contemporary tweaks brought it to a new level of greatness.


There is one word to describe this production of Jesus Christ Superstar: powerhouse. Everything about the performance made it both unique and remarkably respectful of this show's historic roots.

The sound design for this production pays homage to The Brown Album in all the best ways. It embraces that authentic sound and doesn't attempt to overdo the magic of the music with a bunch of distractions or additions. The music itself is what made this show an icon before it ever hit the stage, and the music is front and center from beginning to end. Major kudos to the instrumentalists for bringing their craft to the stage.

The ambiance and just overall feeling of the show was unified in every possible visual way. The costuming was simple but effective. The lighting created intense and almost cinematic moments at pivotal points in the show. There was a touch of rock concert lighting, but it never detracted from the story that's unfolding. Everything was in balance. I especially appreciated the attention to detail in the set design and subtle costuming/effects choices. There were so many places where the shape of the crucifix was drawn out in different ways. The use of glitter and metallics was also interesting. It gave the show this wonderful mixture of glam rock and grit that drew out the symbolism of what was happening in the action of the scene. It was a highly effective and daring choice, and I applaud that creative but also purposeful thinking.

Once I settled into the scenes and all that they entail, I got to savor the incredible vocal talent. With a show that is this well-known, it's difficult to stand out, honor the original, and not make any part a caricature. But this cast has discovered the alchemy to make it all work together and never once take you out of the narrative.

It's hard to choose only a few standouts among this cast because they are collectively so exceptional, especially when they join together as an ensemble. However, I took especial joy in listening to some of the soloists.

One I particularly appreciated was Tommy Sherlock as Pilate. He made provocative vocal choices that told the story of his character. He showed an emotional depth through his slightly rough and deeply impassioned delivery and made that meld between music and character incredibly tight so everything worked in harmony.

I was also drawn in by Jenna Rubaii as Mary. I could feel in every choice she made, both musically and physically, that she was working through her journey as a disciple and as a person of faith. That kind of nuance can be difficult to catch, but she found her moments every time.

Finally, I was captivated by Sarah Parker in the more symbolic role of Mob Leader. Her physicality gave her such a presence on the stage and created even more room for thought-provoking moments in an already reflective show. If you wait for her featured moments throughout the scenes, you begin to see how the people around Jesus ebbed and flowed, pushed and pulled in ways that couldn't be controlled or stopped. It was fascinating to watch.


This 50th anniversary touring show of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical is established from a popular 2016 revival designed for an outdoor theater in Britain.

Shorn down to an intermission-free length, it reminded me that Lloyd Webber's music ultimately connects with the audience more than most of his Broadway songwriting associates when it came to Superstar's visceral music styling. An 11-piece band was scattered across the second level of the modern industrial designed set, and the band solidified that the music acted as the 13th apostle and doesn't betray anyone.

As the show progressed, unique lighting design by Lee Curran and the well-choreographed (Drew McOnie) chorus of up to 20 performers at a time really gave the audience a sense of foreboding and dismay. We know nothing is going to end well here, but we're carried along, nonetheless.

While they stayed true to the original, this production had some out-of-the-box additions and took some creative license with the show. While every JCS show does this, this one was especially interesting and made it fresh. For example... a crucifixion scene might be the first time a staging employed a power drill.

There are more than a few Broadway credits in the cast bios as well, which isn't common for a road show and that level of professionalism was visible across the entire stage. Aaron LaVigne's Jesus was the traditionally hesitant messiah for most of the show, and wrestling with a bulky microphone stand was about as emotional as LaVigne seemed to get until singing the momentous "Gethsemane" and his persona and performance really emerged. As Judas, Eric A. Lewis was an impactful, yet uneasy, tour guide through the events. Lewis's singing satisfied with his upper range when briefly re-purposing the phrase "I Don't Know How to Love Him," greatly impressing. Jenna Rubaii was a charming, even melancholy presence in her numbers as Mary. Also impactful as evil high priests and engaging actors were Alvin Crawford and Tyce Green.

Related Stories
When JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR first premiered in 1972, it was banned by the BBC for being “sacrilegious.” The musical, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, imagines the last week in the life of Jesus Christ in the form of a sung-through rock opera. The tour currently at DPAC plays into the rock side of the musical. 

BWW Review: Even Refreshed for its 50th Anniversary, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Remains Dated  Photo
What did our critic think of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Dr. Phillips Center? The show remains fundamentally a relic of the precise moment in time that Short summed up so well, when the convergence of counterculture and rock & roll meant that an irreverent but ultimately thin concept like this one — “the Bible but make it a concert” — seemed utterly avant-garde...

BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Rocks the Eccles Theater Photo
The national tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR rocks the Eccles Theater with its passionate, unorthodox presentation of the Passion. Read our BWW critic's review.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR to Make Miami Premiere at the Arsht Center Photo
Following critically acclaimed, sold-out engagements in the UK, the reimagined 50th Anniversary tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR will make its anticipated Miami premiere at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County from May 31 – June 5, 2022.

Buy at the Theatre Shop

T-Shirts, Mugs, Phone Cases & More

From This Author - The Marriage Matinee

The Marriage Matinee is the joint effort of Mr. and Mrs. Caraker, newlyweds who live in Indianapolis, Indiana. Now that they’ve formed the bond of holy matrimony, they’re hoping to form... (read more about this author)

Review: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE At Beef & Boards: A Sparkling Holiday ClassicReview: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE At Beef & Boards: A Sparkling Holiday Classic
November 28, 2022

The holiday season brings with it many familiar sights, sounds, smells, and of course, beloved cinematic and stage treasures like IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Beef & Boards chose a true gem to get every audience member into the right spirit while always recalling what’s truly important and truly worth fighting for: each other.

Review: Caves and Worlds of Wonder in ALADDIN at Clowes Memorial HallReview: Caves and Worlds of Wonder in ALADDIN at Clowes Memorial Hall
November 22, 2022

For all those growing up watching Disney movies, and for the kids who absolutely loved Aladdin, the Genie and Princess Jasmine or even Abu, this is a must-watch! Big band, big sound, big show — with enough energy to light up a few thousand lamps.

Review: Have You Heard? ANASTASIA Brings Indy Audiences to Their FeetReview: Have You Heard? ANASTASIA Brings Indy Audiences to Their Feet
October 20, 2022

The rumors are true: ANASTASIA has finally made its way to Indianapolis. You may be thinking it’s just another movie turned musical, but there are new twists and turns to this rendition of the beloved animated film. There’s the romance, the legend of Anastasia, the glittering costumes and crowns, but there’s also battles with personal principles and a sense of national pride that leaves people emotionally and morally torn. In short, it has it all.

Review: They're All Together Ooky and Applause-Worthy: THE ADDAMS FAMILY at Beef & BoardsReview: They're All Together Ooky and Applause-Worthy: THE ADDAMS FAMILY at Beef & Boards
October 12, 2022

From the moment you hear those familiar four organ notes, you are caught up in the fun of THE ADDAMS FAMILY. This musical features the beloved and morbid family many have enjoyed in television and film for decades. Embark on an adventure with these endearing spooks as they try to spend a night, just one night, being normal.

Interview: Chatting with ANASTASIA On Tour Star Willem ButlerInterview: Chatting with ANASTASIA On Tour Star Willem Butler
October 3, 2022

Have you heard? There’s a rumor that ANASTASIA is about to hit the stage in Indianapolis! The anticipation is growing, and we were lucky enough to get an interview with Willem Butler who stars as Dmitry. He gave us some insight into the production and why this musical adaptation is the perfect way to kick off this season of Broadway in Indianapolis.