The 50th anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar is currently at the Orpheum Theater through the end of this week (leaving town on January 26th). It is interesting to revisit the theatrical piece now, so much of what made it up was brand new when it premiered on Broadway in 1971 and was very indicative of where the genre was going. The genre of Rock Operas were only a few years old when Jesus Christ Superstar was written, and in 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber won the Drama Desk Award for most promising composer for his work on Superstar. It is fair to say that Lloyd Webber ended up being one of the most influential composers in musical theater since that time.
This 50th anniversary tour was my third version of the show I had seen, and it appeared to both go back to the show's roots while also making the show feel brand new. Timothy Sheader's direction feels much more like a concept album performed on stage than the previous theatrical productions that I have seen. The production also has more glitter than any production I have seen. This rock concert feel suits the large size of the Orpheum, filling the space up completely in a way that other shows struggle to do. The show's 90 minutes run time with no intermission allows the show to move along quickly, at times perhaps too fast, failing to pause in the show's more quiet and emotional moments.
The scenic design by Tom Scutt was wide open with the exception of a large cross which laid on the floor, leaving more space for the concept album concert feel of the show. Scutt was also the mind behind the costumes which appeared to me like the wardrobe of an influencer on a yoga retreat. Perhaps my favorite part of the show's design was the choreography by Drew McOnie, it felt fresh and new and worked very well with Webber and Rice's score.
The two characters at the center of Jesus Christ Superstar are Jesus and Judas, portrayed in this production by Aaron LaVigne and James Delisco Beeks respectively. They both gave very powerful vocal performances, how voices can sing/yell like that for 8 shows a week is a wonder to me. Jenna Rubaii as Mary gave a more gentle performance, gorgeously singing I Don't Know How To Love Him.
The 50th anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar is not your parent's version of Superstar. It is a must see for anyone who is a fan of the genre of concept albums or who wants to revisit the early work of Andrew Lloyd Webber. It plays at the Orpheum Theater until January 26th. Click here for more information about the show and how to get tickets
***Photo by: Matthew Murphy