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BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Paramount Theater

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The productions runs now through October 10th

BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Paramount Theater

After nineteen long months, The Paramount Theater welcomed the cast and crew of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR to its stage, and the Seattle audience welcomed them into their hearts. The mood was heightened and the air electric as patrons entered the theater after showing their vaccination documentation. Although masked, the smiles sparkled in the eyes as the crowd gathered in anticipation of sharing a journey of storytelling and music. From the first note to the last, the audience was held in rapt attention as we all remembered the unmatched joy of watching live theater.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, the rock opera, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice has been around since 1970 in England, and 1971 in the US. During the five decades of its existence, the show has endured its share of criticism, especially from religious communities. Many struggle with the story being told from Judas's point of view, while others are troubled by the portrayal of the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Very few though have much to offer in criticism for its artistic flair and musical prowess.

This tour is headlined by Aaron LaVigne as Jesus, James T. Justis as Judas, and Jenna Rubaii as Mary. This powerful trio led the way for establishing the narrative and tone of the show. LaVigne draws you in with a slow, easy manner and then builds his character through connections with others. His rendition of Gethsemane leaves no question as to who is the superstar. Justis's performance is the driving force of the show. From setting the stage to posing pertinent questions, he provokes the audience into engaging in his dilemma. His performance forces the audience to see more than one side of Judas. Rubaii as Mary is the breath of the show. When tension is building, her very presence is like a salve. Perhaps because her songs are more country rock than hard rock, but whatever the reason, Rubaii's songs and voice have the most heart. Together these three make a formidable team to lead a solid cast on the epic journey of this show.

The production team for the show has some stand out contributions as well. Scenic design by Tom Scutt and David Arsenault provides the cast with some simple areas with many possibilities. Even better, the design allows the orchestra to be on stage and often visible. The orchestra plays full out, non-stop in this musical beast of a show. The other notable team from the production staff is Drew McOnie and Ashley Andrews, the choreographers. Their work on this show is nothing short of stellar. The work of Mob Leader Sarah Parker is perhaps the most meaningful part of the show. She continually displays in motion what we sometimes miss in lost lyrics of the concert style show with over the top sound that becomes muddled. Parker also embodies the emotion of the show and never holds back. Her level of commitment surpasses everything else visually in the show. For me the biggest drawback in the production of the show was the decision to make it more like a live concert with handheld mics. Sometimes they obscured parts of the actors' faces. Sometimes I was worried about the cords and then wondered why some mics had cords and others didn't which is a distracting thought to have while you're trying to watch a show. Finally, I can't fathom a reason why a national tour in this day and age doesn't have flesh colored cords for the mics the ensemble wore. The stark white cords flailing against the backs of some of the dancers was a reminder that we still have a way to go on the path to equity. And while I recognize the concert vibe was an artistic choice, I'm not sure it was a necessary one as the music alone can take you there.

Regardless of these minor issues, I can't think of a better show to welcome audiences back to the theater that one described as a "glorious glitter bomb." Patrons can check The Paramount Theater website for more information on their special safety procedures for covid. While they may have been masked, there's no denying that the crowd was also on their feet in appreciation of a fabulous night at the theater. Welcome back audiences and thank you JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR for reminding us why we love theater.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is playing at the Paramount Theatre now through October 10th. For tickets of more information, visit www.stgpresents.org.

Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy


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