And looking good!
Jesus Christ Superstar — the 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical based on the 1970 album — has returned, in sharp contrast to Godspell, the Stephen Schwartz hippie tuner that also debuted in 1971 and has magically come back this year as well.
While the latter mixes sanctimony with shtick, Superstar was always more consistently earnest — and never so tasteful than in Des McAnuff‘s production.
McAnuff’s presented the show in a sleek, clean way that makes it all move very quickly, while getting to the heart of the betrayed-icon rock operatics.
The set consists of metal risers with video flashes and ticker messages (“Thursday … Mt. Zion … Passover”).
The costumes by Paul Tazewell are unobtrusive, with some modern-day dazzle reserved for the baddies. (The message seems to be that even today we’re torturing Jesus. No argument there.)
And the choreography by Lisa Shriver is athletic and inventive.
The cast generally goes for realness, starting with Jesus (a nicely underacting Paul Nolan), Judas (big-lunged Jeremy Kushnier filling in for a sick Josh Young), and Mary Magdalene (Chilina Kennedy, effectively playing her as a more up-front, less waiflike creature than usual).
As with McAnuff’s version of The Who’s Tommy, the kitsch level has been reduced in favor of the human element, and in the process, the sumptuous melodies are allowed to take center stage.
But bear in mind there’s a neon crucifix at one crucial point.
And King Herod (Bruce Dow) delivers his taunting song like a male Liza, though it ends with suitable gravitas.
The result occasionally feels a bit segue-less, but with its great singing and slick staging, this Superstar made me a believer again.
PS: Yes, Jesus gets entrance applause!