by Sam Desmond
Drawing inspiration from the John Legend version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the CM Performing Arts Center put on a genuflection and celebration of one of the world’s oldest stories.
Unique to this production is having the orchestra upstage from the performers instead of the pit, which gave a richness of tone, albeit at times at odds with the microphones, to the performance.
Conducted by Matthew Surico, the music was more akin to a rock concert than a musical, with two “angel” musicians leading the way atop each end of the stage.
Clad with lights galore, the stage could’ve been set up for Kiss to come out roaring, but lent itself beautifully to the tragedy leading up to Good Friday.
Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, “Jesus Christ Superstar” is one of those unique moments in musical theater where the story is fully known to the audience and carries a weight that lighter fare would not.
The cast skillfully brought in the audience to the rock opera world of superstar Jesus, with contemporary choreography by Rochelle Martin that transformed the chorus into a dedicated crowd of zealots whose capriciousness is captured in their dancing.
Costume design was also contemporary with Gap-ad vibes in simple silhouettes and everyday athleisure.
Jesus, wearing the only white and light-grey outfit, piercingly stood out amongst the darker costumes.
Powerfully and poetically played by Eli Andrews, Jesus was a quiet celebrity and Andrews’s earnest nature brought a truly tragic victim to life.
Courtney O’Shea, who played the lingering and longing Mary Magdalene, showcased a theater-filling voice that moved the audience to thunderous applause. Her subtlety in her portrayal of Mary was synergistic to Andrews’s held-back supremacy.
Bad boy Judas, portrayed deliciously as the castaway by Andrew J. Beck, and clad in all-black leather, was a fitting contrast to Andrews’s easygoing Christ.
Stepping in as understudy for “The Birdcage” version of King Herod was director Ronald R. Green III, who spiced up the production with his Vegas showman portrayal of the legendary ruler.
For those new to the production, it doesn’t end with the resurrection, so brace yourself for a somber ending, but “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a musical that revives all the glamour and gut-wrenching qualities that bring us to the theater.