Jesus Christ Superstar: An Ambitious But Not Always Successful Show.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Jesus Christ Superstar.

 

 

 
Photo: Alan Dean.
Presenting Jesus Christ Superstar as a rock musical was controversial when it premiered in 1971. Andrew Lloyd Webber (then 21) and Tim Rice based the show on the accounts of the last week of Christ’s life in the Gospels and peppered it with anachronistic allusions.

Revivals over the years have included further anachronisms and sometimes updated the setting. The vision of the current Suzart production is a present-day Jesus Christ Superstar. As director/designer Elaine McCausland says in the program note, she asked herself, “How would it look if Jesus arrived in the Byward Market in Ottawa in 2015?”

Does the concept work? Some aspects work extremely well and inject immediacy. At other times, it is hard to understand some of the choices. For example, having Christ on the cross being blessed by a Roman Catholic priest makes no sense however much leeway is given to anachronistic references. Christianity did not exist until after the death of Jesus, who was a Jew. One of the main reasons given for his being tried and crucified was that he was called the King of the Jews (by others).

It is also difficult to justify why Pilate is dressed to look like the Chancellor of the University of Ottawa at a graduation ceremony. Other costume choices — black-masked tormentors with chiffon scarves or Jesus in multi-coloured pants also jar. On the other hand, having the high priests in business suits provides an effective contrast to the crowd in the market.

And crowded it is with close to 50 cast members and the six-piece orchestra on the small stage, often at the same time. (Surely enough bodies to cast 12 as apostles instead of reducing the number?)

While having so many people milling around and reaching out to touch Jesus underlines the mass hysteria and fan mentality, too much insignificant action and aimless movement confuses and clutters rather than clarifies and makes it more difficult for main characters to perform with punch.

An exception here is Anna Séguin (camel wrangler and dance captain). Her fluid movement, infectious enthusiasm and total occupancy of a relatively small role in the ensemble always draw the eye.

Damien Broomes as Jesus and Chris Lucas as Judas offer well-contrasted characterizations as required. However, while both have strong singing voices, the lyrics are frequently lost when shouting replaces projection. There were also glitches in the sound level from the orchestra, which sometimes overwhelmed the singers.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie Breeze Bone as Mary Magdalene delivers lovely versions of Everything’s Alright and I Don’t Know How to Love Him.

Marc Séguin’s Pilate is clear-voiced and clear of character and Liam Gosson’s drag queen Herod is a comic delight, leading one of the liveliest scenes of the show.

Altogether, the ambitious Suzart production of Jesus Christ Superstar speaks of a huge effort. While the concept is not always successful, it includes a number of memorable moments.

Jesus Christ Superstar continues at the Centrepointe Studio to May 24.

Jesus Christ Superstar

Lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Suzart Productions

Director and set designer: Elaine McCausland

Musical director: Catherine Spear-Ducasse

Choreographer: Valerie Ladouceur

Technical director: Dave Corbishley

Lighting: Rob Puchyr

Sound: Shauna-Lee Thompson

Costumes: Joy Bowerman

Cast:

Jesus…………………………………………………………….Damien Broomes

Judas…………………………………………………………….Chris Lucas

Mary……………………………………………………………..Mackenzie Breeze Bone

Peter……………………………………………………………..Jay Landreville

Simon……………………………………………………………Dani Bone-Corbishley

Herod…………………………………………………………….Liam Gosson

Caiaphas…………………………………………………………Marc Lessard

Pilate……………………………………………………………..Marc Séguin

Annas…………………………………………………………….Alan Viau

Apostles: Alison Manning, Rob Milinkovich, Jackie Roy, Andrew Simpson, Shelagh St. John

Apostles’ wives and children: Grace Cosgrove, Allison Hockin, Dahlia Meyer, Sophia Nikolakakos, Anna Séguin

Merchants: Kieran Gerbis, Liam Gosson, Nadine Levin, Alison Manning, Jackie Roy, Rachel Rumstein, Shelagh St. John, Tara St. Pierre

Politicians: Randy Coles, Lesley Hammil, Laura Jane Nikolakakos

Tormentors/Herod’s girls: Bernice Corbishley, Megan Hulan, Katie Shepherd, Bella Szpala

Soul girls: Bernice Corbishley, Megan Hulan, Rachel Rumstein, Anna Séguin, Katie Shepherd, Shelagh St. John, Tara St. Pierre, Bella Szpala

Security guards: Francine Landry, Alex Shepherd, Scott Shepherd

Street people: Zander Bone, Alisha Desebrais, Victoria Desebrais, Maxim Ladouceur, Hannah Lie, Karen Lamberton, Ellen Séguin, Marc Séguin, Lizziee Warland

Orchestra: Catherine Spear-Ducasse, Mark Allen, John Corkett, Matt Diener, Jason Sedla and Jennifer (who does not want her last name included)


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