Theater Review by Howard Steven Frydman
Production: Jesus Christ Superstar
Theater: The Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre
Music by: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Tim Rice
Director: Terrence Mann
It’s another hot, hottest, oh too hot summer. So what is “hot” this “Summer of ‘18? Yes indeed it’s a Super-Star!! As in most summers- we are presented with choices of Jurassic Giants, or Mini Ant-Men or Wasps, even “Incredible” super families – sorry no Groots, but for a super fun time out of the sun, complete with musical numbers – I highly recommend Director Terrence Mann’s clever, fresh, wildly energetic production of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”, currently being produced at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) as part of their 2018 Nutmeg Summer Series.“Jesus Christ Superstar “- it’s a super blast-not to be missed, must see, musical extravaganza. So chill out with the original SuperStar – J.C!
Let me digress for a brief moment, before my review, with the first of my “Howard’s Kudos” – the best of summers are oftentimes made up of memories- events that we recapture with an inward smile and a “remember when” – last year two of my favorite summer musical productions were the CRT’s “1776” and “Newsies”. Of this summer of 2018 – It is with knowing satisfaction that I continue to make joyful musical memories as I head onward to the CRT Nutmeg Summer Series under Artistic Director Terrence Mann and CRT Executive Producer Matthew J. Pugliese. This CRT summer tradition provides musical theater goers “Tony” Award worthy acting, awe inspiring productions and ultimately creating a truly summer to remember- Bravo CRT!
As with all his productions, Director Terrence Mann’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a full facet of clever (yes I said it twice) musical theater opportunities from vocals to choreography. With music by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, “Superstar” started off as a Webber/Rice concept album before its 1971 Broadway debut at the Mark Hellinger Theater where it was nominated for five Tonys. In 2018, NBC television broadcasted a special Easter production of Jesus Christ Superstar starring John Legend, Alice Cooper and Sara Bareilles.
Webber’s “experiment with rock opera” details the last week in the life of Jesus Christ, from his entry into Jerusalem through his Crucifixion as told from the perspective of his betrayer Judas Iscariot. Memorable songs by Webber and Rice include “Superstar”, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Gethsemane”.
The question though – why employ a production of Jesus Christ Superstar in July? By all accounts this is not a Summer romp through the Galilee but the depiction of extraordinary tragic events. I do have divergent thoughts here- does this production provide the same emotional impact as if it was held maybe closer to Easter? The answer- Yes. Any well done production should evoke an emotional impact no matter when or where- Thank You Again Mr. Terrence Mann. With that said I must state – The acting stellar- singing sensational- dancing with choreography by Christopher d’ Amboise divine and costuming by the extraordinary Fan Zhang heavenly.
Our cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar” includes Alex Prakken as Jesus. Ryan Vona as Judas – (what an extraordinary voice), Jonathan Cobrda as Pontius Pilate, and Miss Sasha Brown as Mary Magdalene. Additionally cast members include Griffin Binnicker (King Herod), Will Bryant (Peter), Simon Longnight (Simon Zealots), Bryan Mittlestadt (Annas), with the ensemble including Jamie Colburn, Maddie Dunn, Annelise Henry, Mike Katz, Nick Nudler, Jovick Pavajeau-Orostegui, Hayden Elizabeth Price, Paige Smith, Anna Uzele, Andy Viviano, and lastly, the coveted “The Howard Noticed You Award” goes to Tyler Grigsby as Caiaphas – an exceptional on stage presence accompanied by stirring and dynamic vocals- we expect good things from you Mr. Grisby – bravo all! Enjoy.
Evening performances start at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 8:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinee performances start at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. To purchase tickets online, visit www.crt.uconn.edu or call 860-486-2113.
The Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre is located on the campus of the University of Connecticut, in Storrs, CT.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.