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Friday, March 2, 2012

Jesus Christ Super Star on Broadway Opening Pre-View Night Review

"A True Spectacle!"  "A Visually Breathtaking Performance"

My overall rating out of 5 stars is "4"                  ★★★★

Just saw the opening Pre-View night March 1, 2012, of the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber "Jesus Christ Super Star at the Neil Simon theater on Broadway, NYC.

It was my first Broadway play ever, an amazing fact since I have lived in NYC my entire life. I went with my brother In-law who played Jesus in a local theater play some 40 years ago, with my sister and my niece who has been in numerous plays herself and has "Gotten the Bug" and wants to be an actress.

The Neil Simon theater is a cozy two tier theater seating around 1,400 people which I find amazing since It didn't seem overly congested moving around. We sat in the Orchestra Row V seats 6-8-10-12. There were a few empty seats in front of us, but as far as I could tell from my view point it was, while NOT a sell-Out, pretty close to one.

 As you know the musical is based very loosely on the Gospels' account of the last week of Jesus' life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem, and ending with the crucifixion. It highlights political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus, struggles that are not in the Bible. The resurrection is not included. It therefore largely follows the form of a traditional passion play.


The Main cast includes:
Paul Nolan as Jesus Christ
Josh Young   as Judas Iscariot

  Tom Hewitt  as Pontius Pilate
Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene
                       Bruce Dow as King Herod                      

Marcus Nance as  Caiaphas
Aaron Walpole as Annas
Directed by Tony award winner Des McAnuff who is the American-Canadian artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and director of musical theater of such Broadway productions as Big River, The Who's Tommy and Jersey Boys.(more about him latter.

Starting off Act one Overture into Judas, Josh Young "Heaven on their Minds",into "Whats the Buzz". A solid beginning. The theater was a cross between old and modern with the use of a "New York Style Zipper" telling the audience what time in the week we were now. Kinda cool, as was the many special effects especially in the "Hosanna" "Palm Sunday" scene as Jesus ends up atop of the walkway in front of a giant electronic scene with a PALM in back of Him.

They used technology of the 21st century a lot, but as you will read latter, it bit them in the end.

I for one enjoyed the use of "The Times Square Look" with the screens and scrolling words. The entire stage design and scenery was one of simplicity but incredibly complex ballet of stars, tables, caldrons etc. The cast climbed ladders and the stars also using the cat work upper level with ease while the dancers flipped and tumbled with grace. It was clear the Pre Pre-Views at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival production had clearly honed there skills and the pace was incredible as I was amazed at the end of the first act at 8:52pm.

For me the high lite of the first act was "I Don't Know How To Love Him" sung by Chilina Kennedy playing Mary Magdalene. Her voice was angelic her acting exquisite only matched by her beauty and grace.  A seasoned Canadian actress she has also starred in at Stratford The Grapes of Wrath, Evita, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum and Kiss Me, Kate.

After an about 15-20 minute intermission we were ready for Act II.

It began with "The Last Supper" into "Genthsemane" to "The Arrest" and so on. Each act continued to flow and had you riveted to your seat, despite the annoying woman sitting next to me. There's always one "IDIOT" sitting in the theater and she was next to ME! She had to have complete silence, impossible with 1,400 people. No movement, don't clap, don't yell out just sit still like a robot and watch. In fact I rally saw her clap.

My high lite of Act II was King Herod, "Herod's Song" played by Bruce Dow. His flamboyant,Zany over the top comic relief portrayal of King Herod had the audience rolling with laughter, excitement and amazement. A well done job and a true show stealing moment! 

But  the second Act, in fact the entire play was stolen by "JUDAS" played by Josh Young! An amazing talent, singer and dancer, to me and my family agreed, "A HOME RUN PERFORMANCE!"  

He has appeared in The Grapes of Wrath, Evita and Kiss Me, Kate at Stratford, as well as a national tour of Les Miserables and an international tour of West Side Story. His death scene was incredible again with the help of 21st century technology.

Now "Jesus Christ" portrayed by Paul Nolan.  To me, and my family agrees, an average job at best. His passion was not there. More robotic and lacking energy. His signing was great, as was everyone's, but there was something missing in his performance. One can truly see his talent and only hope he will improve over time.

Other worthy mentions goes to Tom Hewitt portraying Pontius Pilate. A well done job of singing and acting. A Tony and Drama Desk nominations for his role Frank’n’Furter in The Rocky Horror Show on Broadway, this seasoned Broadway Star shinned once again!

Fine performances also by Marcus Nance, portraying Caiaphas and Aaron Walpole Portraying Annus.

The ensemble cast were terrific despite the fact that some didn't seem to be actually singing, especially in the finale. 

The overall production was 100% Broadway at it's best. The lighting, sound, special effects and set complemented the production.

Except for the "Super Star" into the "Crucifixion" giant moving platform malfunction! As Jesus is being lead to the cross a moving robotic platform comes out and Paul Nolan gets on as the lights spreed out over the first 5-6 rows of the theater as this "Robotic" Star Wars type mechanical wonder begins to turn around trying, as we latter find out, to stretch Paul out over the audience. But, alas, MALFUNCTION, Johnny 5! A man sitting just about 15 or so down the aisle on my left gets up, I was amazed thinking "You can't hold it just a little longer, It's almost over." Goes to the back comes then down to entire aisle to the stage and grabs the mike. "We have a problem." It as I latter find out, was the Director Des McAnuff. He has "STOPPED" the show and is explaining to us the malfunction of this "Prop". The audience was THRILLED! This was a "Broadway Moment" He said he wanted us to have the "Full experience" of the play so they are going to "reboot" this contraption and try again. "We will take it from the top of the scene".

Take two. "An even worse "Malfunction!

So take three they did without this silly contraption altogether. Every time though "Judas" Josh Young, performed the scene flawless with great energy! He had the audience in the palm of his hand!

 It was like watching the movie "Groundhog Day". But I, my family and the audience LOVED EVER MINUTE OF IT! But the "Jesus" death scene as we saw it if that how it will go even with this contraption, re-think and try again!

A little work before opening night March 22 and the sky's the limit!


Here are some Highlights From "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada.