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BWW Review: North Carolina Theatre's JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR


Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera that tells the story of the final week in the life of Jesus Christ. It begins with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ends with the crucifixion. It also highlights the political and interpersonal struggles between Jesus and one of his 12 apostles, Judas Iscariot that are not present in the Bible narratives.

Songwriters Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice originally conceived it as a theatre piece, but no one was interested in producing it on stage, so they ended up creating a concept album instead. The original album was released England in September of 1970 to not much success, but when it debuted in the United States a week later, it immediately took off, even launching the careers of Lloyd Webber and Rice. Despite several protests from religious groups, Jesus Christ Superstar was then brought to to life with theatrical and concerts produced all over the world.

This has always been a show where so many different directors get try any approach they want in order to make it their own. In this production currently playing at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium through Easter Sunday, director Eric Woodall begins it with having every costume (elegantly designed by LeGrande Smith) displayed on stage with each cast member picking them up to get into character before revealing Chris Bernier's neatly designed coliseum set. The production also features some energetic choreography by Marc Kimelman and dynamic lighting designed by Samuel Rushen.

Among the controversial aspects of the show is having Jesus portrayed as a man as opposed to God. It was Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's intentions to portray Jesus as a man because if he was portrayed as God, how would the audience care for him? With Aleks Pevec's very wise portrayal of Jesus, we the audience are able to identify with him much more than we would've if he was portrayed as God. We even feel for him as he's getting closer to his unfortunate fate in the end. The rest of ensemble features noteworthy highlights from Aaron C. Finley giving a strong performance as Judas Iscariot; Brennyn Lark giving a heartfelt performance as Mary Magdalene; and commanding appearances from Larry Alan Coke as Caiaphas and Kevin Earley as Pontius Pilate, respectively.

Jesus Christ Superstar is clearly not your Church's take on The Greatest Story Ever Told. What Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice have done was that they took that story, and made it accessible to a wider audience by creating a contemporary presentation of it (similar to what Lin-Manuel Miranda would do with American history many years later on his blockbuster musical, Hamilton). Like the rock opera itself, this production should not only leave audiences entertained, but also very profound.

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