Thursday, March 22, 2012

Judas Iscariot Superstar

There's something so satisfying about seeing an understudy steal a show. That happened at the final press performance of Jesus Christ Superstar where the role of Judas was played by Jeremy Kushnier, replacing Josh Young during his vocal rest. Young returned to the show for opening night and is apparently a highlight when he's on, but I can't help but think it's a shame that Kushnier can't play the role permanently.

Des McAnuff's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's 1971 musical about the last week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth comes to Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre via the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The musical is a quick two hours long including intermission, but after the exciting opening number, the first act drags a bit. It's fun to look at Paul Tazewell's costumes (though the best one, Judas's tight shiny blue suit, does not appear until late in the show) and Robert Brill's metallic two-tiered set backed by a huge screen, which gives the show the appropriate look and feel of a rock concert, but it feels like not much is happening (and maybe this is a result of my ignorance of the new testament) other than building up to the crucifixion. However, the second act really picks up and there are some especially striking uses of Sean Nieuwenhuis's video designs, such as to depict blood as Jesus is being lashed. The cast, led by Paul Nolan as Jesus, nails the rock score vocally, but only Kushnier's Judas really resonates emotionally, becoming the only character whose actions I really understood. Superstar, indeed.

Photo credit: Joan Marcus


Mildly Bitter said...

Nice use of "nails" Linda. ;)

Manashi Mukherjee said...

Nice review. I couldn't agree more with everything you wrote. Great show, mainly b/c of Judas and that awesome blue suit at the end!