Thursday October 19th 2017

“Jesus Christ Superstar”

Highly Recommended ***** In the 1970’s,Andrew Lloyd Webber (Music) and Tim Rice (Lyrics) penned a “rock Opera concept” that was called “Jesus Christ Superstar” exploring the struggles of the last seven days of history in the life of Jesus Christ. Return with the cast of the Paramount Theatre’s production to view a new version of this historical piece that may have changed “Musical Theater” forever (there are many who truly feel this way). Since the rebirth of this Aurora showplace, The Paramount has brought us one solid hit after another, using their wonderful stage to its fullest advantage. This production is staged to perfection by Ron Kellum, who also handles the choreography on a magnificent set designed by Kevin Depinet, with moveable pieces allowing transformation from scene to scene with no break in the action.

I have seen countless versions of this show over my years of covering theater in Chicago, as well as concert versions, but this is the first time I have ever seen an all African-American cast. By doing this Kellum establishes the idea that  color, creed, orientation or status is not of import, but truly the story. There are people who might swear that they have heard that Christ, who was the “King of the Jews” was indeed “black” and yet there is no proof of this, or that he was indeed not black. This production is geared to present the story. The director, being a “person of color” opted to explore the idea that this production would allow the audience members, of all races, see the story for what it was Webber and Rice wanted to explore from the onset: There is a story to be told, and no matter who you are or your upbringing, this story is one that you should know. For the record: this is my interpretation and I strongly feel, as a Jew, that  this musical exploration is one that causes people to think about the history of Christ and his story , whatever it might truly be.Factual? Fable? Myth? It matters NOT. This haunting musical (fable/story/piece-fill in your own ) is for all to hear so they can think!

The Paramount has put together an amazing cast of players with voices that are filled with heart, soul and power. Putting this production on just as we had celebrated Easter and Passover, is added flavor to the story, although we know the run will take us past the actual season. The “Last Supper” is in fact the Passover “Seder” (except they used real bread instead of Matzah in this production), and of course those who are Christians understand the “crucifixion” and the “rising” far better than I can explain. The importance of the telling of the story is just that- the telling of the story. Over and over, in any way that might be in your comfort zone, but in a manner so the viewer will seek to learn more about the incidents and the truth, as well as to see the true message relative to love and inclusion. This is after all, everyone’s story!

In the role of Jesus, Evan Tyrone Martin is “stunningly beautiful” with the largest eyes I have ever seen on a stage and a voice that will send shivers up and down your spine .Mary Magdalene is brought to life by Felicia Boswell and Judas deftly handled by Mykal Kilgore. This theater has a great knack of finding the exact right actor/singer for the part they take on.The players , all deserve mention: Lorenzo Rush Jr., Avionce Hoyles (King Herod),  Rufas Bonds, Jr. (Pontius Pilate),Stephen “Blu” Allen, Jos N. Banks, Ciera Dawn, Gilbert Domally,Candace C. Edwards, Jared D.M. Grant, Keirsten Hodgens, Mark J.P.Hood, Reneisha Jenkins, Michael Lovette, Gabriel Mudd, Brian Nelson, Jr., Renelle Nichols, James Osborne, Jon Pierce, Kafi Pierre, Travis Porchia, Camille Robinson, Alexis J. Roston and Jessica Brooke Seals- all great jobs, many playing many roles!

Being a “Rock Opera”, it is not vocal numbers or songs, but rather a score with memorable lyrics and melodies. Those of you who are truly into the Webber/Rice productions will hear some familiar melodies as they did use some in other musicals, but the ones that are most notable in this “opera” are “Superstar”, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”, “Hosanna”, “What’s The Buzz”, “Everything’s Alright” and “Gethsemane”. Different audience members may have their own favoriets that they take away with them. These are mine! The orchestra, conducted by Tom Vendafreddo makes this music as fresh and vibrant as I am sure it was back in the 1980’s (over 35 years ago). In fact, with the jazz and soul influences and these amazing voices, it is even more vibrant.

On the tech side, in addition to the beautiful and functional set by Depinet, the lighting (Greg Hoffman), sound (Adam Rosenthal), costumes (Theresa Hamm), properties (Amanda Relaford) and projections (Mike Tutaj) truly were the pieces that made this show as powerful as it is. The violence designers, R & D Choreography (Victor Bayona and Rick Gilbert) did a masterful job of creating some illusions that might make one cringe and Ethan Deppe’s “electronic music” was perfect! Once again, Jim Corti and his staff have found all the right parts to bring the quality work to the Paramount Stage that we have become used to. Bravo!

“Jesus Christ Superstar” will continue at The Paramount Theatre located at 23 E. Galena Street in Downtown Aurora thru  May 28th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Thursdays  7 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  3 and 8 p.m.

Sundays  1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Running time is about two-hours-15 minutes with an intermission.

Tickets range from $44- $59 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 630-896-6666 or online at www.ParamountAurora.com. Valet parking is available, street parking as well as a few city lots and garages. There are lots of dining spots in the area. Aurora is a wonderful place to visit and with this special theater, even more than it used to be.

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Jesus Christ Superstar”

 

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