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Review: Jesus Christ Superstar 

Le Petit Theatre mounts an update of the 1970s rock opera

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Photo by Danielle Walters

In Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre's production of Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus wears tight pants and a white feather boa while he jams with his apostles. The popular 1970s rock opera, featuring lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, follows Christ's final days — from the Last Supper to his betrayal by Judas and his crucifixion. It's the New Testament with strobe lights and sexy outfits.

  It opens with Judas (Adair Watkins) in a leather biker jacket brooding and singing; he worries Jesus is getting too popular for his own good. He questions Jesus' motives and relationship with Mary Magdalene (Elyse McDaniel). Watkins, who has many solos, started slow but pulled it together, showing a softer side of the pill-popping Judas. Mary's doe-eyed naivete eventually turns stoic as she watches people turn on Jesus.

  The show is full of nonstop energy and bright lights. Clayton Shelvin choreographed the apostles, who high-kick and death drop at every turn. They also join together during a few much-needed quieter moments, specifically the Last Supper, which looked like a party hangover scene. It's a fast-paced musical, and these moments help the audience keep up with the action. The apostles don't get many big singing parts, but Chrishira Perrier (Simon Zealotes) had a standout moment in her solo, belting out high notes. In the second act, Logan Faust's King Herod, wearing a blue wig, had a scene-stealing moment, too, as he used servants as a throne and taunted Jesus.

  Costume designer Julie Winn outfitted the 12 apostles in Mad Max-esque mesh tank tops and cut-up vests. They look edgy, which helps place the show in a seemingly post-apocalyptic world. While these point toward Jesus' final days, the priests wear long, glittery capes like 1990s sci-fi villains. This seems far off and unbalanced. Black stripes down the face of Caiaphas (Sean Richmond) made the antagonistic high priest come off as an quixotic space invader more than a threatening figure.

  As Jesus, Nick Shackleford shows off his range, especially in the Gethsemane scene in which he sings "Why Should I Die" to his invisible Holy Father. In the song, he impressively moves from emotional beats to rock 'n' roll screeches. The show's emotional climax is, of course, the crucifixion, and it is a punch-in-the-gut moment to see Jesus on the cross. The work is a bit kitschy throughout — though mostly in a good way — and it was nice to see this moment given the gravity it requires.

  Over the years, Jesus Christ Superstar has attracted controversy from religious groups, who see it as blasphemous. But for audiences unafraid of some irreverence and loud music, director Augustin Correro's production is a rocking good time.


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