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"Jason Raize is equally assured as Pilate."
--Richmond Times-Dispatch review of Jesus Christ Superstar

 



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<< Dayton Daily News review of Jesus Christ Superstar

Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia)
Lead is Weak -- But Play is Strong
by Roy Proctor, Staff Writer
June 8, 1995




Tulsa World review of Jesus Christ Superstar >>

Jesus is indeed the superstar of the Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera bearing his name, but you might never know it from the touring "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Carpenter Center through Sunday.

In this truck-and-bus show launched in 1992 to mark the 20th anniversary of the filmed "Superstar," Texas rocker Ted Neeley re-creates his title performance from the movie. But almost all the other principal performers sing and act circles around him.

Maybe Neeley, the tour's prime drawing card, has been on the bus too long. In the first act, he conveys Jesus with a limited stock of tired beatific mannerisms, and his singing voice is a sometime thing.

With the second act's "Gethsemane," he manages some genuine feeling, but never the conviction and vocal finesse that the actors playing Judas, Pontius Pilate and Mary Magdalene bring to their roles.

That doesn't mean Neeley doesn't get a rousing standing ovation, though. No matter how he's played, Jesus always gets audience huzzahs in Richmond.

Otherwise, this "Superstar" is a huge improvement over the "Superstar" that played the Carpenter Center five years ago.

Except for Neeley's lackluster performance, the tendency of cordless headsets to obscure some performers' mouths and a title song that doesn't get the soaring oomph it needs because the pit orchestra is too small, this "Superstar" is quite lively and moving.

Director-choreographer Tony Christopher puts the emphasis on dance, which is often inventive, as well as singing. He eschews elaborate scenery in favor of spectacular lighting -- the sides and top of the stage bristle with hundreds of computerized lights -- to reinforce the play's moods.

The stage glows blood-red at some points, glacial-blue at others. Different areas often are lighted in strikingly different ways to drive dramatic points home. When the light clears, the contrasting colors in the hippyish costumes in this tableau-prone show sometimes suggest illustrations on Sunday school posters.

Unlike the 1990 "Superstar," in which Bertilla Baker thought she was Ella Fitzgerald and destroyed the clean, simple lines of "I Don't Know How to Love Him" through embellishment, the show's most haunting ballad gets its full due this time out. Christine Rea as Mary Magddelene turns her confused feelings about Jesus into a haunting spell-binder. (The role is played by Lisa Marie at matinees.)

Gary Rowland brings a powerful baritone, seductive charm and real anguish to Judas. Jason Raize is equally assured as Pilate. Pint-sized P.J. Terranova gets a lot of laugh mileage out of his Elvis Presleyish rendering of King Herod. And Christopher P. Carey's bassoonlike tones are made to order for the sinister Caiaphas.

This show's one big innovation lies in the ending. To meet old complaints that Jesus is crucified but not resurrected, the musical epilogue has been expanded to break the bounds of the cross and ascend literally out of sight while his cross takes on a golden glow.

No stage rendering of "Superstar" is likely to compete with the majestic images the original "Superstar" album conjured in the mind. As stage versions go, however, this one has a lot to recommend it.

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