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"It was, however, the purple-clad Jason Raize who nearly stole the show with a dramatic, soulful reading of Pontius Pilate.
--Albany Times Union review of Jesus Christ Superstar


 





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<< Newsday review of Jesus Christ Superstar

The Times Union (Albany, NY)
'Superstar' Retains Sparks
of that Old-Time Religion

by Greg Haymes, Staff Writer
August 22, 1995




SARATOGA SPRINGS -- "What's the buzz? Tell me what's happening,'' sang the chorus. "What's the buzz? Tell me what's happening.'' At the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday night, it was more than just a little difficult to tell exactly what was happening during the national touring revival of "Jesus Christ Superstar.''

There were no programs available either as giveaways or for sale which meant that the cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock opera went virtually uncredited. The only announcement at the start of the show was that Gary Rowland was playing the role of Judas. Carl Anderson, who portrayed Judas in the 1973 film version, was originally slated to reprise the role. Still, Rowland turned in an admirable performance.

And, of course, there was no mistaking Ted Neeley (who played Jesus in the movie) in the title role. The 52-year-old Neeley played the role with mellow restraint, but was still capable of issuing blood-curdling, show-stopping screams. His tenor has deepened with age, and at times he sounded uncannily like Blood, Sweat & Tears' David Clayton Thomas.

Sadly, the rest of the cast worked in anonymity, which was too bad because several of them delivered stellar performances.

Vocally, Christopher P. Carey imbued Caiaphas with a frightening, Darth Vader-like croak, while Rodney Dennis delivered the role of Simon with acrobatic, high-flying gymnastics.

Christine Rea made the most of her performance as Mary Magdalene, illuminating the new-age psychobabble of the jaunty "Everything's Alright'' and bracing the hit "I Don't Know How to Love Him'' with the appropriate balance of confusion and wonderment.

It was, however, the purple-clad Jason Raize who nearly stole the show with a dramatic, soulful reading of Pontius Pilate.

Raize and Rea were also the only actors who were audible and understandable throughout the show.

Part of the problem was a scatter-shot sound mix, which sometimes pumped up the six-piece band (located in the orchestra pit) to such a volume that the singers' voices were buried. There were a number of additional sound problems, too, perhaps due to the actors' combined use of wrap-around headsets and wireless hand-held microphones.

Rowland and Neeley frequently got so caught up in the emotion of their roles that they choked off lyrics or shouted them to the point of speaker distortion.

Of course, SPAC wasn't really designed for a full-scale musical like this one, and in fact, the last musical that the shed hosted was "Jesus Christ Superstar'' back in 1971.

Fortunately, the storyline which chronicles the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is so well known that few in the crowd had difficulty following the action.

Watching the show now as something of a period piece, it's difficult to believe that "Jesus Christ Superstar'' created such furor by combining religion and rock 'n' roll.

Directed and choreographed by Tony Christopher, the current production concentrated on capturing the peace-and-love spirit and look of the hippie '60s rather than the biblical era. An energetic blur of bright colors and swirling movement supported by a high-tech stage set, state-of-the-art, computerized lighting and more fog than the city of Chicago is likely to see in a year, there was enough glitzy razzle-dazzle for the show to lay claim to bona fide superstar status.

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