Jesus Christ Superstar Lives Up to the Hype

On Saturday we went to see a preview of the Broadway revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. It had received incredible reviews when it opened at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada and then at La Jolla Playhouse in California. It's one of my favorite shows and I'm happy to say it definitely lives up to all the "buzz."

I was nervous that it wouldn't be as spectacular as the critics are claiming, but it was a solid production with a simple but eye-catching set, very strong vocal performances, and some great direction that presents the story in a streamlined and satisfying fashion.

Although it had some memorable moments, I disliked the 1973 Norman Jewison movie for a number of reasons. The 2000 Broadway production, however, was fantastic (and if you haven't already, check out the video version.) This new version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice rock opera is a wonderful artistic achievement.

My wife and I disagreed on who was the stronger performer -- she voted for Josh Young as Judas Iscariot, whose amazing voice was definitely captivating (even though I found the new arrangement a bit jarring at times), but I opted for Paul Nolan, who I thought was a near perfect Jesus.

There were other standouts in the cast as well -- Chilina Kennedy was a fine Mary Magdalene and Bruce Dow was extremely entertaining as King Herod. Marcus Nance and Aaron Walpole were excellent as dreadlocked Caiaphas and Annas. Lee Siegel was a very strong Simon Zealotes and Mike Nadajewski was fantastic as Peter. The greatest supporting character was Pontius Pilate, played superbly by Tom Hewitt.

The technical aspects of the production were terrific. The lighting, for example, during the "Gethsemene" scene was awe-inspiring. Combined, the imaginative stage direction and the stellar performances all added up to a show that I hope lives on for a long, long time. Jesus Christ Superstar is still in previews at the Neil Simon Theater. Tickets are available on the show's official Web site