Friday, May 1, 2009

review - Jesus Christ Superstar @ CLOSBC

Jesus Christ Superstar
music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics by Tim Rice

directed by Stephanie A. Coltrin
Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities @ Redondo
through May 10

Back in the early 70s I was enthralled by the majestic overture of JC Superstar and by the gripping power of the lyrics. This is operetta at its best, where the entire story must come to fruition through the singing. When done well, these Bibilical characters come off the pages as real human beings with raw emotions; because of this musical endeavor, we more clearly understand the motivations of Christ, the adoration of his disciples and Mary Magdalene, the bewilderment of Pontius Pilate and Herod and so on. So much so, that as a Catechism teacher, I played the Webber/Rice score for my classes to stimulate their critical thinking. Ted Neeley, Carl Anderson and Yvonne Elliman provided sterling vocal interpretations that made the whole process so richly rewarding. But, religious or not, audiences across the board are deeply moved by the elegant score, and the current fine production at CLOSBC has a terrific cast that can all really sing.
This ensemble, under the even hand of Stephanie A. Coltrin, is wondrous. Eric Kunze has such gentility as Jesus. He brings sweetness, warmth and a genuine sense of human frustration to the divine leader. Josh Tower as Judas and Kevin Bailey as Pilate are both incredibly strong. Bailey's vocal and dramatic unraveling in Act II is amazing. Karole Foreman gives Mary M richness of spirit and sings so beautifully. Jody Ashworth uses is deep bass tones to perfection as Caiaphas, and Harrison White in black leather is a gaudy scene stealer as Herod. Kudos as well to Ron Kellum, Jason Webb, Robert Sean Thompson, Dave Barrus et al.
Christopher Beyries' set design of an open stage with steel staircases and walkways, Christa Armendariz' costumes with an eclectic assortment of 70s, Renaissance and leather bondage designs, and Darrell J. Clark's vibrant lighting contribute greatly to the
storytelling and leave the time span open to interpretation.
Although there is no new spin here on Webber's first masterpiece, this Jesus Christ Superstar is vocally uplifting and pleasant to watch: it is well worth the visit to Redondo Beach.
4 out of 5 stars


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