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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 24, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 25
Jesus Christ Superstar a powerhouse performance
Arts & Entertainment
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Jesus Christ Superstar a powerhouse performance

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Jesus Christ Superstar
Village Theatre
Issaquah: Through July 3
Everett: July 8-31


The blockbuster rock-opera Jesus Christ Superstar brings powerhouse performance to Village Theatre. A bold new interpretation by director Brian Yorkey sets the story in a slum-like inner-city atmosphere, complete with rubble and chain-link fence.

The controversial musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice originally set the story of the crucifixion of Jesus in and near Jerusalem, though the music and script were all modern. The current production's gritty exterior (set by Matthew Smucker) and corporate costuming by Melanie Burgess might or might not feel appropriate to you. It does give an interesting twist to the contemporary feeling and relevance of the musical.

A large cast - there have to be at least the 12 apostles, after all - supports this sprawling story of Jesus' inevitable arrest and death. The script starts at the end of the three years Jesus has been preaching in Israel, and the powers-that-be are worried about his growing power to disrupt their carefully constructed status quo.

The ensemble is full of solid singers and dancers, with strong performances by Eric Polani Jensen as Caiaphas, Greg Stone as Pontius Pilate, and lovely (though not soulful) singing by Jennifer Paz as Mary Magdalene. Brandon Whitehead gets a single song as King Herod, but completely stops the show with his outrageous portrayal.

Another Yorkey twist is the decision to double-cast Jesus and Judas. Michael K. Lee and Aaron C. Finley alternate playing Judas and Jesus, so unless you check ahead of time, you won't know which one you'll see singing which role. The evening of the review, Finley played Jesus and Lee was Judas.

Lee has a beautiful voice and experience heading a Village production. He was Tommy in The Who's Tommy several years ago. His performance as Judas shows all the turmoil and difficulty Judas has in his role as betrayer. It is clear in his performance that Judas doesn't really have self-determination, and is the chosen one to trigger the arrest of Jesus, so that the pre-ordained events of Jesus' death can take place. That inevitability is a very clear message of the musical.

Finley's voice is a strong instrument. He has strength and mature control. Yet, he's still young to take on such a headlining role. While his singing was completely capable of the range of vocal expression, he was a very ordinary man, as opposed to a spiritual leader who could charismatically change a nation. Especially in Act Two, when he has to grapple with his impending death, he does not bring any kind of majesty to Jesus' end. Given a slightly less celestial character, Finley can clearly develop into a powerful leading man. He's not quite up to this one, yet.

With terrific musical accompaniment led by music director Tim Symons and appropriate choreography by Daniel Cruz, suited for a kind of inner-city dance crew, the musical is full of punch.

For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.

Discuss your opinions at sgncritic@gmail.com.

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