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Hard-rock score

Jesus Christ Superstar at Welk Resort Theatre

The Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera may be “loosely” based on the last days of Jesus, but the Welk Resort Theatre’s dazzling JC Superstar is tight as a tourniquet. All elements cohere. All the voices turn tunes into high-wire acts with no net below. Director/choreographer Ray Limon has fashioned one of the most daring, most complete shows I’ve seen at the Welk in quite some time.

Jesus Christ Superstar

When Tom O’Horgan directed Superstar for Broadway, he shocked the pundits with “gaudy theatricality” and a “desperate striving for effects.” One critic called the premiere “heavenzapoppin.”

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Somewhere between 1971 and now, the musical’s been refined to fit what O’Horgan (who also directed Hair) wanted: a “total theater” where actors perform with “maximum physical and vocal fluidity.”

Lighting and smoke transform the stage into an intimate, mystical séance held at a Stones concert.

Limon’s stress on physicality and vocal pyrotechnics would have impressed O’Horgan. And even Andrew Lloyd Webber, who said in an interview, “we don’t think [O’Horgan’s production] is the definitive one.” The Welk’s sung-through show moves at a speed-through pace.

The unit set — two large, connected crosses center-stage, a walkway above, various stairways — looks cold and mechanical from afar. Jennifer Edwards’s often spectacular lighting and a deft use of smoke transform the stage into an intimate, mystical séance held at a Stones concert.

Edwards goes bold early: at Jesus’ first appearance, he slowly raises his hands; when they reach audience-level, a flash of light zaps the house. Although this is Rice and Webber’s “irreverent” take on the familiar story, there will be reverence as well.

Rice’s lyrics remain funny after many hearings: “A trick or two with lepers, and the whole town’s on its feet”; “a man who is bigger than John was when John did his baptism thing.”

Jesus (Kyle Short) is unsure — not his divinity, his afterlife on Earth. Did he choose the wrong followers (“My name will mean nothing ten minutes after I’m dead”)? Judas (Dominique Petit Frere) swears things have gone too far: the humble Galilean’s become a hit, a “superstar”; people mangle the message (“it was beautiful but now it’s sour”). The tensions, amplified by the hard-rock score, propel the show in spite of its built-in spoiler alert.

This is an ensemble piece studded with sparkling cameos. It’s almost as if performers lie in wait for their turn to “rock the cynics.” Which Nicholas Alexander does with “Simon Zealotes” (“Christ, you know I love you. Did you see I waved? I believe in you and God, so tell me that I’m saved”), Ryan Dietrich with the decadent “Herod’s Song,” and Quentin Garzon as an eternally tormented Pilate.

Credit to musical director/conductor Justin Gray for making a 4-piece band sound like 15. Vince Cooper’s snaky guitar’s a major plus. Janet Pitcher Turner’s on a roll. She designed the period-accurate costumes for Ion’s Sunday in the Park with George. Here, she drops back 2000 years to “poor Jerusalem” and Roman dominance with apparent ease — and for that matter, spangly Vegas glitz as well.

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The Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera may be “loosely” based on the last days of Jesus, but the Welk Resort Theatre’s dazzling JC Superstar is tight as a tourniquet. All elements cohere. All the voices turn tunes into high-wire acts with no net below. Director/choreographer Ray Limon has fashioned one of the most daring, most complete shows I’ve seen at the Welk in quite some time.

Jesus Christ Superstar

When Tom O’Horgan directed Superstar for Broadway, he shocked the pundits with “gaudy theatricality” and a “desperate striving for effects.” One critic called the premiere “heavenzapoppin.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Somewhere between 1971 and now, the musical’s been refined to fit what O’Horgan (who also directed Hair) wanted: a “total theater” where actors perform with “maximum physical and vocal fluidity.”

Lighting and smoke transform the stage into an intimate, mystical séance held at a Stones concert.

Limon’s stress on physicality and vocal pyrotechnics would have impressed O’Horgan. And even Andrew Lloyd Webber, who said in an interview, “we don’t think [O’Horgan’s production] is the definitive one.” The Welk’s sung-through show moves at a speed-through pace.

The unit set — two large, connected crosses center-stage, a walkway above, various stairways — looks cold and mechanical from afar. Jennifer Edwards’s often spectacular lighting and a deft use of smoke transform the stage into an intimate, mystical séance held at a Stones concert.

Edwards goes bold early: at Jesus’ first appearance, he slowly raises his hands; when they reach audience-level, a flash of light zaps the house. Although this is Rice and Webber’s “irreverent” take on the familiar story, there will be reverence as well.

Rice’s lyrics remain funny after many hearings: “A trick or two with lepers, and the whole town’s on its feet”; “a man who is bigger than John was when John did his baptism thing.”

Jesus (Kyle Short) is unsure — not his divinity, his afterlife on Earth. Did he choose the wrong followers (“My name will mean nothing ten minutes after I’m dead”)? Judas (Dominique Petit Frere) swears things have gone too far: the humble Galilean’s become a hit, a “superstar”; people mangle the message (“it was beautiful but now it’s sour”). The tensions, amplified by the hard-rock score, propel the show in spite of its built-in spoiler alert.

This is an ensemble piece studded with sparkling cameos. It’s almost as if performers lie in wait for their turn to “rock the cynics.” Which Nicholas Alexander does with “Simon Zealotes” (“Christ, you know I love you. Did you see I waved? I believe in you and God, so tell me that I’m saved”), Ryan Dietrich with the decadent “Herod’s Song,” and Quentin Garzon as an eternally tormented Pilate.

Credit to musical director/conductor Justin Gray for making a 4-piece band sound like 15. Vince Cooper’s snaky guitar’s a major plus. Janet Pitcher Turner’s on a roll. She designed the period-accurate costumes for Ion’s Sunday in the Park with George. Here, she drops back 2000 years to “poor Jerusalem” and Roman dominance with apparent ease — and for that matter, spangly Vegas glitz as well.

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The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

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Folk, world, punk, rock, and reggae in Ocean Beach, City Heights, Carlsbad, Little Italy, downtown
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Jakob Nowell takes up his father’s role as Sublime frontman

New lineup will perform at Bayfest on July 20
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