Review “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Broadway in Chicago): A Blaring, Heart-Pounding Ride!

Thursday, July 21, 2022 Permalink 0

Broadway in Chicago, along with Work Light Productions, presents The Regent’s Park Theatre London Production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR on a 50 city tour over three years.

This isn’t your mama’s “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The beloved rock opera gets a heavy metal-like makeover in this 50th Anniversary Production reimagined by The Regent Park Theatre London. The 15 member band is onstage and on fire! They aren’t accompanying the singing. They are driving the madness! Their music inspires the crowd’s adoration of a Savior. The frenzied tempo then ignites condemnation for a criminal. The blaring ride is heart-pounding. For fans of the 1970 concept album that led to the Broadway debut, this JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR isn’t the familiar hippie-style protest, it’s a bloody revolution!    

The show is visceral in sound, dance, and emotion. The loud rhythmic music is perfectly synchronized with Drew McOnie’s inventive choreography. McOnie creates primitive tribal movements. His dance sequences, led by the captivating Sarah Parker, add to the emotion of the moment. Parker’s distinct patterns of gestures turn into a cult orientation ritual. The amazing ensemble ‘drinks the Kool-aid’ as they both joyously leap as followers and later brutally lunge as an out-of-control mob. And nod out to Designer Tom Scutt (scenic, hair, costumes) aiding the visual storytelling. Scutt puts a hip spin on the hair and attire of Jesus’ followers and haters. His two-storied framed backdrop with oversized cross on the ground gives both a harsh and simplistic feel.                     

Emotion is at the heartbeat of this show and music pumps the blood to it. A microphone slung over a beam illustrates suicide. Amplifier speaker stands are dismantled and rebuilt as a crucifix.  Director Timothy Sheader may allow the music (Tom Deering-supervision, David Holcenberg-North American) to overpower the lyrics (sorry Tim Rice!), the story and the emotion of the moment is always understood. Sheader masterfully orchestrates his cast in passionate deliveries. A forceful Omar Lopez-Cepero (Judas) and a tormented Aaron LaVigne (Jesus) have an ear-piercing face off. Their relationship angst is palpable. Tommy Sherlock (Pilate) is commandingly cocky with shades of uncertainty. And the fierce Jenna Rubaii (Mary) exquisitely and earnestly sings both ‘Everything’s Alright” and the showstopper “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.”    

I really enjoyed this unique and marring interpretation of Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice’s (lyrics) well-known musical. The evocative and well-paced contemporary spin on a classic  appeals to a new generation of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR fans. I shared an elevator with two young audience members confirming this theory with wide grins and ‘loved it’ exclamations. 

Running Time: One hundred and five minutes with no intermission

Cadillac Theatre, 151 W. Randolph

Featuring lyrics and music by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber

Directed by Timothy Sheader

Choreography by Drew McOnie

Music supervision by Tom Deering and David Holcenberg (North American)

July 21st, 22nd, 24th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th at 7:30pm

July 23rd, 24th, 27th, 30th, 31st at 2pm

July 23rd and 30th at 8pm

Thru July 31st

For more information or tickets

Photos by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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