The Miracle on Glenwood Avenue! That might be the best way to describe what Fred Anzevino has created at The No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park, with his TheoUbique Company. This troupe just keeps getting better and Fred, with his staff, Jeremy Ramey (Musical Director) and Brenda Didier (Choreographer), just keeps proving that size “does not matter!”. Over the years, this company has brought to their stage large productions such as “Man Of LaMancha”, “Chess”, “Cats” and “Evita”, and now, the original “ROCK OPERA”,”Jesus Christ Superstar” is brought to life, live on this very small stage in this very intimate space and to sheer perfection, as the audience, being several feet from the action, get to hear every word of every lyric (Tim Rice) and hear every note that Andrew Lloyd Webber brought to this “opera” that began as a concept album and then became a Broadway production. All this some 40 PLUS years ago!
For those of you familiar with the space at No Exit, it is set with the stage backing the window and the seating area with some risers. The wall that we see (the set) is what appears to be a bridge, that later becomes the backdrop for the Crucification. If you have never been to The No Exit, shame on you! This is a marvelous and highly enjoyable way to watch a musical, scaled down to size so that instead of the glitz and glory of the set, we get to see the actors tell us the story as it is meant to be told. There is no amplification in this theater allowing us to hear every word with no “feedback”, and what a nice feeling that is. By the way, the four musicians make this score easily understood and sound much more like a 10 piece orchestra or rock band- Bravo!
I am not sure if Fred goes out and finds the singers that he gets to work in his theater or if they, hearing about the prowess of TheoUbique, come to him, but they just keep showing up and wonder of wonders, they are not only great in their vocal ability, they can act as well. This is an amazing company and one that everyone who lives in Chicago should count as a city treasure.
Being a Rock Opera, there is no dialogue, it is all set to music as we are told the story of Jesus and the betrayal by Judas leading up to his being crucified. We meet the people around him, those who loved him, those who hated him and those that feared him and what he represented. There are no , what we call, hummable songs in this type of show, butone song that most people are familiar with is “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”. Danni Smith, who has shown over the years how diverse her talent is, brings something very special to her portrayal of Mary and in this song, knocks it out of the park! Judas is well played by Donterrio Johnson, Simon (deftly handled by Caleb Baze, who also demonstrates great range and pipes) and Peter by Michael Ferraro.
Max DeTonge is an amazing Jesus. At the very start, I was not sure if he was properly cast in this role with the exception of his long hair and scraggly beard, but once I watched his work on the stage, I knew that Anzenvino had found the perfect actor to take on this special role. He is spellbinding to watch, which makes him the perfect Jesus. What an ensemble: Ryan Armstrong, Tommy Bullington (a dynamic and fun Herod), Jomar Ferreras, Sharriese Hamilton, Steven Perkins, Khaki Pixley, Will Wilhelm and the incredible Jonah D. Winston (who nails the notes that must be there as Caiaphas). A total of thirteen excellent voices make this a true theatrical experience. If you have seen this before, you owe it to yourself to see the magic that this production performs. If you have never seen this “Rock Opera”, this is your opportunity to share a memory with the others who are in the audience with you.
To give credit where it is due, Adam Veness has done a set that works using the limited space that this theater gives him to work with. Maya Michele Fein’s lighting works wonders in this space and William Morey’s costumes and Cassy Schillo’s props round out the tech portion of the show along with the projections by Brock Alter. Remember- no mikes, yet perfect sound.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 8 p.m.
Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 7 p.m.
NOTE: The time of this play is the season that we are in now and Passover is on the way, so if you are partaking in the dinner that is available, you will be very into the evening.
DINNER AND A SHOW!
Part of the complete Theo Ubique experience includes dinner, served by the actors before the show, with dessert during intermission! Dinner reservations are accepted at the same time as you place your ticket order. For an additional $25, order the show with three-course dinner from Heartland Café in one easy step! Please note that the Heartland is not able to accept pay-at-door dinner reservations, and that drinks and gratuity are not included.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR Menu
Vegetarian Matzah Ball soup with marble-sized dumplings.
Cubed Lamb, baked and braised with gravy (or flavored house-made seitan) served with couscous tabbouleh and asparagus
Traditional Baklava served with a lemon-infused whipped cream
Tickets range from $39-$43 ( less $5 for students and seniors) and can be purchased by calling 800-595-4849 or online at www.theo-u.org
No Exit Cafe is located at 6970 N. Glenwood Avenue, just north of the Morse Avenue station on the RedLine.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Jesus Christ Superstar”