BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatre

BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatre

This weekend was the opening of South Bend Civic's production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It's directed by Mary Hubbard who is assisted by Maureen Wojciechowski and choreography was provided by Hannah Fischer of Fischer Dance of South Bend. It starred Allen Roberts, Jr. as Jesus Christ, Lincoln Jake Wright as Judas, Zoe Sharrock as Mary, Jack Keilman as Peter, Joel Walker Ayers as Simon, Kevin Barclay as Caiaphas, NaKyrrah White as King Herrod, Dean Palmer as Pilate, Christian Marquez as Annas, and the ensemble consisted of Lucy Beard, Billie Bennett, Molly Burnham, Megan Chandler, Alexandria Cooks, Meaghan Gilroy, Brielle Hall, Jill Hillman, Connor Roberts, and Billy Tull.

For the three people who are not aware of the show,BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatre Jesus Christ Superstar is a fabulous rock opera that debuted in 1971 on Broadway and that many know from its 1973 film. It tells the story of the final days of Jesus as told through the eyes of Judas. This show has amazing music and is easily one of my favorite Andrew Lloyd Weber shows. It showcases rock vocals and can be as minimal or as grand as the stage allows.

Recently, NBC had its live version televised and the staging gave the show a rock concert feel, which this show lends itself to well. In fact, one would have hoped that the directing staff of SBCT would have watched it to get ideas for their own version as they also went minimal. In fact, they went so minimal that they didn't even bother to use props outside of shields that later became a large capital "T" to crucify its star upon.

That is just the start of a number of missteps in the direction of this BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatreproduction. The choice of choreographer was an issue that actually could have been fixed by the choreographer herself. Hannah Fischer is an amazing dancer and has put together some great dance pieces for the area. Recently her work was highlighted as part of the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival to an appreciative audience. However, the show was not cast with enough dancers to make her choreography work. Their movements across the stage seemed less about showing the audience something new and more like it was to distract us from some less than capable singing.

While we are discussing casting, I would very much like to say congrats to those that were cast in the show, but this show needed more people. It felt like SBCT took everyone who auditioned and tried to get them as close to the part they could do BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatrewithout ever really hitting it. These are not actor problems, the actors had no control over what they were asked to do and as such, they did their best. Wright, Palmer, and Barclay all have moments of greatness, but the moments of greatness were outweighed by the rest of the show. I actually attribute this to the constant use of everyone in all of the musical numbers all of the time.

One final note on casting. I am not sure why Mary Hubbard felt the need to cast a female King Herrod, which I am sure SBCT wrote and received permission to do so as any community theatre is legally required to do, but to not only cast the King as a lady, but to cast a high school student that had issues with the song and to apply very little BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatrein ways of a dance number to it, was a huge issue. Again, however, this was a moment of an actor doing her best with what the director gave her to do and lands squarely on the shoulders of the director and vocal director to work on it with her to allow her to be the best King she could be.

Technically, this show became a mess as well. With constant mic issues and actors who relied not on ability, but a microphone to make them sound good, many a lyric was lost, or just not sung. One could just call it opening night issues, but SBCT has put a great deal of money into a sound system that, when used well, even on opening night, sounds great. Lights however, were very confusing. If a theatre is going to use dualBWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatre spotlight operators, they should be knowledgeable about who they are lighting and when. It does seem, with a few more shows under their belt, they could get it and not be a huge distraction to a show that already has too many distractions on stage. Again, however, with the lighting system SBCT has, one wonders why they would depend on spots when they easily could have been pinpointed programmed lights.

On a personal note, I do not enjoy writing a review like this. I want to like the shows and support the theatres. I have said for years "Just Do Theatre" and have been an example by going to all the theatre in the area I can. I took this position not to tear down shows, theatres, or people, but to honestly tell what shows are worth seeing, BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatrewhat theatres are doing great work, and what people to watch if they are cast in another show. The people I personally know is this show have worked very hard and have done their best, but when I see people I know as professional dancers looking like they can't do a move on stage, I know it isn't their fault that its happening, but the fault of the directing staff. Shows are hit or miss and to say every show is "the best show you've ever seen" is just a lie. So while this is not a great review of a show my friends put their hearts and souls into, I do hope they understand that I do not hold them responsible for what I am seeing placed on the stage and hope they do their best every night for the friends and families that will certainly come and see them.BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at South Bend Civic Theatre

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