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Jesus Christ Superstar
a Musical
by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) & Tim Rice (lyrics)

COMPANY : Next Stage Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Next Stage Theatre's Alley Stage
ID# 4472

SHOWING : June 14, 2013 - June 30, 2013



Winner of the 1972 Tony Award for Best Original Score, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s "Jesus Christ Superstar" changed the face of musical theater when it debuted on Broadway in 1971. This rock-and-roll retelling of the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, Superstar dramatizes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the unrest caused by his message and his popularity, his betrayal by Judas Iscariot, his trial before Pontius Pilate, and his ultimate crucifixion. Chart-topping songs such as "Superstar," "Everything’s Alright" and "I Don’t Know How to Love Him" dramatically highlight the struggles of those final days. Next Stage brings this hit Broadway musical to Marietta.

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Jesus Christ Superstupor
by playgoer
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Compared to sitting through Next Stage Theatre Company’s "Jesus Christ Superstar," Christ’s death was quick and painless. Okay, that’s blasphemous and exaggerated, but it gives you an idea of the truly horrid production ensconced in the Alley Stage. Don’t worry, though -- the audience will recover fully in three days.

No programs were available by the end of the run, giving an indication of the slapdash quality of the company’s management. Fill-in cast members were performing by the end anyhow, so a program might have been misleading. There was no one giving a performance so glowing that individual mention was warranted. Only Jesus came through as rising above the general stench.

The set is an unattractive mish-mash of retro-techno elements, with graffiti on roll-up concrete block walls at the start. Three TV monitors are used to count down the days from Christ’s entry into Jerusalem to His crucifixion. A couple of Facebook/Twitter entries display at the start, giving a contemporary spin to the proceedings, but that concept quickly fades away, although cellphones figure in a good bit of the choreography.

The choreography is frenetically active in the initial numbers, then tends to fade away. Black light is used in a few cases, but in the most ineffective way I have ever seen onstage. White-gloved hands glow in a blob-like blur, with no coherent placement. Another use of black light makes the Temple priests’ prayer shawls and shirt collars glow, for no apparent purpose.

Musically, the show is under par. Iffy notes are heard in most voices, and even from the clarinet in the orchestra. The sound system tends to muddy voices, wreaking particular havoc with the diction of Judas. This is a difficult score to sing, and the cast just isn’t up to the task.

On the bright side, the pace is fairly brisk.

A lot of ambitious concepts are thrown at the show, but none of them really stick. A female dancer seems to be a Satan figure, whispering into Judas’ ear, but the effect doesn’t reverberate. Red-dipped fingers are used to paint whip marks on Jesus’ naked torso, which is probably the most effective concept, but at 39 strokes becomes repetitive. A professional harness and noose are used for Judas’ suicide, but lasts for only about ten seconds before the rope is re-used to hold the cross. The final moment of the show is meant to be a coup de theatre, with the body of Christ surrounded by cloaked chorus members, then found to be suddenly gone when the chorus members un-cluster. In the tiny Alley Stage space, though, the body on the floor was already invisible to anyone past the front row. Turning an unseen Christ into an unseen Christ is hardly a miracle.

The absolute nadir of the production was Herod’s song. Director Rob Roy Hardie took on the role himself, starting the number in a cloak, back to the audience. When he turned around to reveal himself in a garish pink suit, his constant wig tugging and hurried choreographic movements made him appear a rank amateur. When in the middle he stopped the band to introduce his "son" in matching suit, the show absolutely fell apart, with a missed musical entrance, "unison" dancing that was a shambles, and mismatched vocal levels. It stopped the show cold, but not in a good way.

Next Stage Theatre Company tends to take on ambitious challenges, applying idiosyncratic concepts to the pieces it performs. When they work, it can be exhilarating. When they don’t (as in this case), the audience is robbed of the enjoyment of a show that would have been more successful if done in a more conventional manner. There’s talent onstage, but it’s shown in such a scattered, unfocused fashion that audience enjoyment suffers. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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