By Alan Bresloff
The first collaboration between Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, a groundbreaking masterpiece that became the start of the “musical, Musical” for our stages is now onstage at Theatre at The Center in Munster, Indiana. This is a mind boggling production of a classical, “rock opera” depicting Jesus as a Rock Star/prophet and his mass appeal to the public as well as the fear he created in the powers to be. Webber and Rice wrote this musical as a parody of our modern day in that more people honor and adore as well as worship stars of movies, sports and music over what truly matters. Celebrity worship, to many is a way of life. Watch the women in the checkout lines in a grocery store and how they are reading stories from every gossip magazine and newspaper in the rack. Questions such as who is with who, who is leaving who and is so and so really gay, are far more important than the oil spill in the coast and how many casualties have we had on the streets of (any big city) over the week-end.
In this story, we are treated to a sort of comparison to the rise of Jesus as compared to what it might have been today, but if he were a rock star. The musical numbers, “What’s The Buzz”, “Everything’s Alright”, I Don’t Know How To Love Him” and of course “Superstar” are all memorable, but the entire score is filled with wonderful story-telling lyrics and music that is purely “rock” Under the direction of “Super” director/choreographer, Stacey Flaster, who has re-imagined some of the numbers and brought them to a new level, with a solid cast of performers, this is one of the best productions that I have seen of this show, ever! (Sorry Ted Neely). Ms. Flaster, who has matured as both a director and choreographer right before my eyes just keeps getting stronger. Her imagination is surpassed only by her ability to make her creative thoughts become reality and this production has “Jeff Awards” written all over it.
In the last few years, young Max Quinlan has exploded on the Chicago area theater scene, working the Marriott, Drury Lane in Oakbrook and now, here in Indiana. Rumor has it that his next stop will be New York to see what the Big Apple holds in store for him. I, for one, am thankful that audiences here were fortunate enough to watch him perform on our stages. His vocal range, which I have always found to be extraordinary in past roles, is even greater in his handling of some of the intense music we experience in this show. His ability to sustain the high falsetto notes is unbelievable- almost as if he was given this gift in order to play this role and handle these songs. “The Crucifixion-Golgotha” is amazingly brilliant and just the icing on the cake to a top-notch performance. Quinlan is not just a remarkable singer, he is a true natural talent that can emote with the best of them, comedy or drama- he is the “real thing”.
As most of you know, even a “superstar” like Quinlan cannot hold a show together. The supporting cast and ensemble members are the people who truly make it work, and this production is filled with talent. Joe Tokarz, who has graced several local stages of late, shines with his interpretation of Judas. I am not sure if it is Flaster that gets more out of her actor’s voices or musical director William A. Underwood, but Tokarz appears to have moved up another notch as well. The lovely Audrey Billings shines as Mary (and does a wonderful “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”. The always reliable Larry Adams takes on the role of Pontius Pilate and Steve Genovese’s King Herod will knock your socks off with the second act number “King Herod’s Song” a lively, comical look at Jesus’ ending. Flaster must have dreamed this one up late one night after being out on a drinking binge( just kidding!), but it truly is effective and delicious!
Every member of this cast is dynamic and lives the spirit of what Webber and Rice were attempting to create e, a Rock musical depicting the last seven days of the life of Jesus Christ and how, although he always considered himself just a man, his followers made him the idol that he was and many people, even those in power, fear that which they are not familiar with, so he became a threat to them as well as fearful to even his followers. This is a story, just a story with great music and should be accepted as that- don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to see a marvelous production just because of the “religion: you think it is about- just go and enjoy!
The set is very simple , but the lighting effects by Tim Fandrei, the sound by Barry G. Funderburg, the costumes by Nikki Delhomme, and props by Libby Fandrei truly bring this masterpiece of work to as close to perfection as can be done with live theater. If I were to be asked, “is it worth the trip to Munster to see this 40 years old show?”, the answer would have to be YES!!!!, and don’t put it off as you only have until August 8th ( I am hoping they can extend, or even move it somewhere downtown) with performances as follows:
Wednesday and Thursdays at 2 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2:30 p.m.
There are also some Thursday evening and some Saturday afternoon shows (2:30 p.m.)
In fact, on Thursday, July 29th, you can enjoy a special Burger Buffet Event:
Buffet of burgers and fries with all the trimmings (including a sundae bar) and the show for $50.00
A real bargain.
To purchase your tickets call the box office at 219-836-3255 They range from $36-$40.
You can also order them at Tickets.com at 800-511-1552 or online at
Theatre At The Center is located at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster,Indiana, just a short 35 minutes from the loop with plenty of free parking. This is a vibrant theater in a lovely community that wants nothing more than to bring Quality Theater to you at affordable ticket prices. Mission accomplished!