Jason Raize Resource

"The tour brings plenty of music, noise, resplendent lighting and costuming, and through Tony Christopher's supervision, hot choreography, from time to time."
--Springfield Union-News review of Jesus Christ Superstar


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Union-News (Springfield, MA)
Rea Stunning in 'Jesus Christ Superstar'
by Fred Sokol, Staff
March 6, 1995

Allentown Morning Call review of The King and I at the Bucks County Playhouse >>

A wildly uneven production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," Saturday evening (the second of two shows that day), marred an absolutely stunning turn by actress Christine Rea as Mary Magdalene. With her rich voice scaling Springfield Symphony Hall heights, and an enticing flower-child look, Rea took the capacity house by storm with her rendition of "I Don't Know How to Love Him" during the first act.

The musical, which opened on Broadway well over 20 years ago, showcases Ted Neeley, who took the title role on Broadway and for the 1973 film version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical. By Saturday night, Neeley's voice was pretty much shot and he seemed fatigued. Lady Luck seemed to smile upon him as intermission was delayed 30 minutes due to a medical emergency. When the production resumed, Neeley seemed rested and reassured and, although his vocals still ranged from whisper to scream, his overall performance improved markedly. Neeley's a thoughtful actor and he gives Jesus a pensive, appealing portrayal.

The spectacle of a rock musical follows Jesus as his chief rival, Judas Iscariot (an unimpressive Gary Rowland), challenges the leader. Judas feels Jesus has become headstrong. Judas betrays Jesus, who is judged, after his arrest by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate (Jason Raize).

Jesus is questioned by Herod (an Elvis-like P.J. Terranova is bizarre but side-splitting). Eventually, Jesus is put to death and the crucifixion follows.

All of this, including scenes and songs, might have been a mystery to the full house Saturday night and perhaps to the 2100 patrons who attended the matinee hours before. Someone either forgot or decided not to distribute even paper playbills. Buying the glossy tour book and insert in the lobby gave one a sense of cast but not of specifics. Disconcerting stuff.

Back to the show: The subplot, or romantic theme, finds Mary Magdalene unabashedly fond of Jesus. She's poignant, desperate, plaintive as she expresses her love for the charismatic man, something of an elder to her.

She lights her torch for Jesus in the first act with an almost Janis Joplin-like "I Don't Know How To Love Him" (except that Rea has a more mellow voice than did Joplin). She keeps it lit during the second act with "Could We Start Again, Please."

The microphone system employed by The Judas Company and/or Symphony Hall is a bit suspect. Either that or the voltage was simply cranked up way too high by technicians; for, a number of performers were, to be kind, shrill in their upper registers. A few theatergoers actually held their hands over their ears from time to time.

All of this is too bad because this is a nifty musical, early Rice/Lloyd-Webber and, delightfully, fresh material. It doesn't seem to date.

The tour brings plenty of music, noise, resplendent lighting and costuming, and through Tony Christopher's supervision, hot choreography, from time to time.

Some of the young performers are quite able, as both singers and dancers. Their spirit lifts a bus and truck tour when travel must be exhausting.

After the Springfield shows, the cast and crew jumped on a bus for a five hour ride to York, PA, then to Utica, N.Y. Do they catch a few winks on the bus? No wonder some seemed a bit ragged around the edges. Maybe it doesn't matter. Virtually everyone was on his or her feet at the final evening curtain. Before adjourning, the musicians in the orchestra pit began a spontaneous jam, having a fine time of it before packing up for the next performance.

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