BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Granite Theatre
From the very first note to its jubilant finale, the Granite Theatre's current production of Jesus Christ Superstar shines. While the music (circa 1970 AD) and the message (circa 30 AD) are timeless, this production sets the action in the here and now. Rhode Island traffic signs define the place and contemporary costumes, clearly showing who was in power and who was not, define the time.
With music by Andrew Lloyd-Webber (that would be The Right Honourable The Lord Lloyd-Webber) and lyrics by Tim Rice, this rock opera is one of the most well-known pieces of musical theatre, one in which audiences are very likely to know every word. And the Granite Theatre presents a powerful production of it in a comfortable, intimate setting.
As Judas Iscariot, Mike Davis delivers every note perfectly with conviction and commitment in his portrayal as a passionate, yet, tortured, bottle-toting Judas. The uber-talented Davis is joined onstage by his wife, PattiLou Davis, who portrays Mary Magdalene.
PattiLou Davis delivers one of the performance's several high points, with her rendition of "I Don't Know How to Love Him." She brings a refreshing confidence and strength to the role of Mary, which is appropriate as perceptions of Mary has changed greatly since this show debuted on Broadway in 1971. And while the lyrics still call to question her "profession," many ecumenical scholars now doubt the veracity of that long-held belief.
The starring role of Jesus of Nazareth is played by Sean Byrne. He portrays Jesus with humility and a quiet grace, which is contrasted by the power and stamina of his magnificent voice. Offstage, he fronts the Foreigner Tribute Band, Merchants of Cool.
Marc Bernier's rich voice and musical talent may be familiar to those who have heard him as a Mystic Seaport Sea Chanty man or on the New England folk music scene. His portrayal of Peter is sweet and sincere. Especially memorable is his duet with PattiLou Davis, "Could We Start Again Please?"
Chris Maxwell, as Pontius Pilate, delivers another high point with his performance of the dramatic and challenging "Pilate's Dream."
Jane Mandes is a delight to watch. Whether as the PDA-toting Priest assisting Mark Sullivan's imposing Caiaphas or a seller in the temple, her range of facial expressions add just the right touch of needed levity.
And while there were many stand-outs in this ensemble cast, it is the ensemble itself that is the star. Every voice, whether heard solo or in a chorus, makes this show a success. Jesus Christ Superstar is at the Granite Theatre in Westerly, RI now through November 19. Rumor has it that it counts as going to church. For information, go to granitetheatre.com