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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “Jesus Christ Superstar”

March 23rd, 2012

Paul Nolan & Chilina Kennedy in "Jesus Christ Superstar". Photo by Joan Marcus.


After acclaimed runs at the Stratford Festival and La Jolla, Director Des McAnuff (Jersey Boys) brings his signature quick-cut, pop flash to a Broadway revival of the quintessential 70’s rock musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice–about the final days of a certain boy from Bethlehem.

“I have to confess to finding the show alternately hilarious and preposterous — if often infectiously melodic — during the two hours’ busy traffic of Mr. McAnuff’s brisk and lucid staging.” New York Times

“Hearing excellent singers deliver these tunes through powerful, crisp amplification is a primal thrill.” New York Post

“If this rock-opera reimagining of the ‘Greatest Story Ever Told’ is far from ageless and seems unlikely to spark major new insights for believers or non-believers, as a time-travel experience it offers plenty to enjoy.” The Hollywood Reporter

“This may be Jesus’ story, but the stars of the production are Lloyd Webber’s psychedelic melodies and Tim Rice’s beautifully unfussy lyrics. And they sound sensational.” Entertainment Weekly

Mizer’s Two Cents: Your reaction to the show will likely vary depending on your affection for the 70’s rock opera wack-ness of Rice and Weber’s score and your comfort with its kaleidoscopic, concept album approach to dramaturgy. The show sounds great (big kudos to the sound designers for making this very loud show comprehensible), moves briskly and has some amazing dancing but, for me, its energy often stayed ringing in my ears without working its way down to my heart or gut.

Absolutely worth the trip: Paul Nolan gives a vocally magnificent and fascinatingly haunted performance as “Jesus”. His rendition of the vocal cord shredding “Gethsemane” is as good as I think you’ll ever hear (take a listen below) and equally persuasive in its striking contrast between musical pyrotechnics and controlled, fiercely intelligent acting. Similarly nuanced work comes from Tom Hewitt as a conflicted “Pontius Pilate”; his and Nolan’s scene together hums and draws you in. And McAnuff’s staging of the climactic scenes–particularly the way the crucifixion feels like a man rising to meet his strobe-lit, mythic superstardom–is thought provoking and affecting.

Want a preview? Watch the incredible Nolan singing “Gethsemane” at special fan event before the show opened:

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