Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Broadway in Tucson Review: "Jesus Christ Superstar"

You can't go wrong with "Jesus Christ Superstar" during Christmas season.

The creative team could be excused for soft-pedaling and hitting the easy marks, well-established by decades of success.

Director Timothy Sheader, however, isn't content with the status quo, and instead adds a fresh take on the classic, injecting it with fresh, vibrant energy that makes it seem as new as it must have during its initial run.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" is peak Andrew Lloyd Webber. Thumping, rhythmic music pulses through the audience, and the performers expend maximum energy, leaving every ounce of their exertion on the floor with beet-faced abandon.

The latest touring production does away with the 70s rock opera aesthetic for a grungier, 1990s mosh pit-style feel. Drew McOnie's raw, charismatic choreography gives the tone a rustic elegance that blends with the aesthetic.

Above all, the refreshed take on the production makes the story Judas's personal story of anguish, divided loyalty and resentful fatalism. James Delisco Beeks commands the show in the role, belting out his songs with the gusto of Aaron Burr in "Hamilton."

Not to be upstaged, topknot-donning Aaron LaVigne thrives in the given lead role, leveling the audience with a rockstar performance that adds a welcome masculinity to the traditionally milquetoast interpretations.

Jenna Rubaii completes the masterful lead trio as Mary, delivering heartbreaking renditions of "I Don't Know How to Love Him" and "Everything's Alright."

A passion play in both the traditional and emotional senses, the production revitalizes "Jesus Christ Superstar," somehow making the show even better than you remembered with a vigor that could be described as heaven-sent.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" plays through Sunday at Centennial Hall. Buy tickets here.


Gigi said...

I attended last night and although the performers were great, the mic volume didn't seem to be properly set as it was very hard to understand the words unless it was a solo, quiet song. I know every word of this rock opera and had difficulty making out the words to most songs. I had 3 people with me who weren't familiar with the play, and they were lost because they couldn't follow the story because the songs were almost unintelligible. Disappointed.

Charlie said...

My wife and I attended last night. What could have been a very entertaining and great performance turned into a disaster because of the sound and acoustics in Centennial Hall.
When is the U of A going to update this music hall? God knows they spend a ton of money on football, basketball and lots of other new complexes. Wake up and take care of the arts. You lost me as a customer until you get it fixed.

Sharon Wolcott said...

This is the first season for me to attend Broadway in Tucson. While Hello Dolly was enjoyable in spite of the acoustic nightmare of Centennial Hall, Anastasia was not. Anastasia's staging was spectacular, but at the intermission, we walked out. We attended Jesus Christ Superstar on opening night. It was beautifully re-imagined! Were it not for the disastrous acoustics of the venue, it would have been one of the more memorable Broadway touring productions I have ever attended! But once again, the sound was hollow and flat. Centennial Hall is an even worse acoustical disaster than at ASU's Gammage! It's time for an upgrade!