PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh brings Jesus Christ Superstar to the Benedum through January 5, 2020. Tickets start at $33. This review is part of our series of ‘regular people reviews’ exploring cultural events and performances throughout the region. Ledcat and Sarah crafted this review. ~ Sue
New Year’s Eve, full of tradition and superstition – what we do to bring good luck for the coming new year! Although I’m not really religious, my friend Sarah and I spent New Year’s Eve by attending the opening night of Jesus Christ Superstar. This was the 50th anniversary tour, which means I was 7 years old when it debuted. Mind boggling. I remember hearing the soundtrack when I was a kid, my cousin Karen probably had it, and I recall hearing the songs on the radio, predominately, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” In 1970, when this musical debuted, the soundtrack was everywhere and this show did it justice. But I am jumping ahead of myself.
One thing I noticed right away was that the cast of this show was very diverse both for the inclusion of people of color and the ratio of male to female in the cast. The actor who played Judas, James Deliso Beeks, was black; however, Jesus, played by Aaron LaVigne, was a white male (blond, presumably blue eyed) and Mary, played by Jenna Rubaii, was, by appearances anyway, a white female. The portrayal of Jesus as white always amuses me. I do want to note that the actor who played Herod, Paul Louis Lessard, played the character like a drag queen. He appeared in a golden shiny cape and wore a gold leotard over black tights. Although this musical is about the last days of Jesus, his appearance lent a comical, irreverent air.
All three of the main actors/singers were fabulous. They all have gorgeous voices and their acting and movement were effortless. Almost all of action in this musical, all the actor’s movements, was danced. The dancing, along with the set, gave it a very urban, modern feel. The music involved the playing of an electric guitar at the very beginning, to open the show, and at various points throughout. I love the electric guitar and the playing of it lent almost an ominous, suspenseful feel. Sarah did comment that she wondered what Andrew Lloyd Weber would think of this interpretation. I don’t know, sometimes giving something a modern feel can help bring it along into the present and make it relevant and interesting for (ahem) younger audiences.
The only complaint that I had, and it may because I’m getting old, is that at time it was hard to hear what Judas and the backup singers were singing.
Although I am by no means a professional critic, this musical version was great and I highly recommend it.
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