Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar, which originally opened on Broadway at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on 12th October 1971, continues in its current tour form based on the 1996 Gale Edwards-directed revival. Based on the last seven days in the life of Christ, this show is a landmark of rock-oriented musicals and the music still holds up today. The current non-traditional staging includes a decayed urban setting with graffiti, camouflage fabric tank tops and cargo pants for the good guys, and imposing Darth Vader-like costumes for the bad guys.
Most audience members are familiar with the music, and it is a nostalgic show for many baby boomer theatre fans. It is a show that always seems to draw great energy from its cast, and this production is no exception.
In the title role, Eric Kunze (Les Miserables, Miss Saigon) brings a strength and wisdom that works well. His voice is excellent and is well represented in the large Heinz Hall theatre. As Judas, Lawrence Clayton (Bells Are Ringing, It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, Civil War) is strong in voice as well, but his lyrics seem to be blurred by the sound system. Natalie Toro as Mary Magdalen is best when singing and, although her showcase song "I Don't Know How to Love Him" is lessened in impact by her pop treatment, it is in "Could We Start Again, Please" that she shows the clear quality of her vocals. Stephen Breithaupt (Cats, Les Miserables tours) is quite good as Pontius Pilate, and Barry Dennen (though well-experienced with the show, having played Pilate on Broadway and in the film) offers a somewhat subdued King Herod, particularly in the splashy "King Herod's Song."
The tour is directed by Kevin Moriarty and, perhaps due partially to the choreography of Dana Solimando, movement often seems mechanical and exaggerated. The back-slapping, high fives and other mannerisms are overdone here, though within reason can complement the staging. As mentioned, the ensemble is enthusiastic, well trained, and athletic.
This stop lasts until Sunday, April 11th at Heinz Hall. For ticket and performance schedule, call 412.456.6666 or visit http://www.pgharts.org. For more information on the tour, visit http://www.reallyuseful.com/Shows/JCS/tickets.asp.