by Shelley Dean
The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center (CMPAC) has officially opened their much-anticipated production of the hit rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice production tells the widely known story of Jesus and his disciples, with an unconventional spotlight on the betrayer, Judas Iscariot. Filled with other familiar names such as Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate and the Apostles, this show explores relationships, difficult decisions and some unbeatable vocals.
Directed by Ronald Green III, who also gave a memorable performance of King Herod, CM’s Superstar can be seen through April 10.
Before the show even began, the audience had much to look at. A well crafted and nearly symmetrical stage provides an excellent arena for the events of the night to take place. Not to mention a backdrop made entirely of lights that allows for proper amplification of the more intense scenes of Superstar.
The 25-piece orchestra, brilliantly conducted by Matthew W. Surico, admirably supported the cast and never missed a beat throughout the entire show.
This particular production of Superstar was led by three powerhouse vocalists and well-rounded performers. Eli Andrews as Jesus, Andrew J. Beck as Judas and Courtney O’Shea as Mary Magdalene. Andrews offered a fresh take on the titular character, one that related to his disciples and made the audience gasp with emotion at his rendition of “Gethsemane (I Only Want To Say.”) Anyone in the theater could have heard a pin drop after Andrews fell to the ground, overcome by emotional exhaustion during the beautifully sung song. Beck, who provided his house-shattering vocals for the role of Judas, was clearly a crowd favorite. Though a villain in this story, Beck humanized Judas and encouraged the audience to empathize with his decisions. The applause from the house seems to indicate he achieved this goal. This trio was rounded out by O’Shea in her CM debut as Mary Magdalene. O’Shea commanded the entire stage whenever she opened her mouth. Her rendition of “Could We Start Again Please?” would no doubt win an award. With a beautiful voice and acting skills to match, this performer is one to watch out for.
Other standout performances include Jon Rivera as Pontius Pilate and Hans Paul Hendrickson as Peter. Rivera offered a menacing and captivating approach to Pilate, one that had many on the edge of their seats. Hendrickson’s vocals were outstanding and left a longing for a solo song just for the character of Peter.
Though, perhaps the most impressive aspect of CM’s Superstar is the ensemble. The joy that performing brings each one of them was apparent on every face. This ensemble worked as a unit, supporting each other as well as the leads of the show. It was hard to choose which performer to watch, as every single one provided an interesting narrative to dive into. From the beginning of the show to curtain call, the energy was high and the audience was engaged.
With a simple and appropriate color palette for Superstar, the costumes help every cast member fit in nicely, while certain characters draw attention, such as O’Shea as Mary Magdalene in a beautiful and vibrant red outfit, thanks to costume designer Ronald Green III.
With so many standout performances, this is altogether a standout show and not one you will want to miss.
Check out more production photos here:
Photo Credit: Dr. Photo Photography