Thursday, April 28, 2011

Superstar Thoughts

Ok, as promised on facebookhere are some of my more detailed thoughts on Jesus Christ Superstar, performed Easter weekend at the Civic Center in Syracuse by the Salt City Center for the Performing Arts. (You can read all my past Superstar posts here

It doesn't make much sense, I dont think, to review a production that is already over, so these are just some thoughts. I have seen Superstar so many times that I dont watch it in the same way anymore. Sometimes I wish I could have the experience of seeing it on stage for the first time again - for that open, fresh experience. But I enjoy it now for the little things I see each time that are new. This year, I treated myself by vigilantly waiting for tickets to o on sale, actually setting aside money in advance this year, and getting box seats! It was so much fun to be so close to the stage, actually able to look down into the pit and watch the musicians, and see all the action on stage, the facial expressions, even watch the children lining up in the wings with their palm branches, ready to sing Hosanna. 

Random Reflections: 

* Nowadays, watching Salt City's production of Superstar is like watching people I know grow up, even though I have personally met very few of the cast members. I like watching some people move from random villager, to leper with one line, to priest with several little solos over the years. Or seeing multi-generations of family participating. 

* I feel like the Civic Center is just too big a space for this production. Obviously, Superstar can fill the house for two nights, but I would rather see the production move back to a smaller space and do a longer run. What about the New Times Theatre, where other Salt City productions have been taking place? Possibly this has already been considered and rejected. But I think this would be a good move: 

  • Since moving to the Civic Center, the choir gets totally lost. The sound system doesn't work for them, and there are times, with 40 cast members or so on stage, even sitting in my box seat practically on top of the stage, that I cant hear the choir. I know they're singing - I can see their mouths moving! But I can really barely hear them. Even more problematic are times when the choir is off stage singing. 
  • The smaller theatre, with multiple entrance points to the stage, allowed for a level of interactivity with the audience. I remember effective stage exits by an angry Judas, running down the center aisle, or the chorus entering from multiple points for Whats the Buzz. Brings the audience right into the action. Makes the crucifixion scene more powerful. 
  • longer run would make the show more available to the audience. After all, right now, the show only goes up Friday and Saturday of Holy Week, kind of a busy time for church folk! We used to take our youth group every year when I was in junior high - I bet many church groups would come if they had different time opportunities to do so.   

* Costumes: Really liked Mary Magdalene's  costume this year. Very pretty. Also Jesus, Pilate, excellent costumes. Actually, even a lot of choir costumes seemed updated. Maybe I could just see them better up close. But they looked new, and I liked all the browns better than pastels. Footwear is my pet peeve. Sandals with Velcro? I know it is picky, but I find it distracting. Also: Judas in white loafers for Superstar? huh? 

* This year saw long-time Jesus Bob Brown transition into the role of Pontius Pilate. This was an excellent move. Bob was perfect as Pilate. Probably the best I have seen Pilate at Salt City, with no insult meant to past performers. This was a Pilate with authority and power. Bobs voice was perfect for the part, and I really felt he was channeling Barry Dennen, which I definitely mean as a compliment. 

* Improving every year in his role: Bill Ali. 

* I miss the disco ball. 

* Choreography (Tara Huss Davis) and dancing this year looked really good. Strong in the Overture, Simon Zealotes, Herods Song, Superstar. Very good. 

* I was most worried, naturally, about Henry Wilson as Jesus rather than Judas. He was the first person I ever saw perform the role live, and it was hard for me to imagine him in any other role, especially Jesus. Wilson played Judas as kind of a bad-ass, and never having seen him act in anything else, I wasn't sure how we would pull off Jesus. I thought he did a really, really excellent job. Jesus - well, I have seen some bad acting in various productions I've seen. A least favorite wimpy Jesus, for example, who stood with shoulders hunched, and made you not really want to root for him. And then, there are different interpretations of Jesus too - Ted Neeley on stage these days plays Jesus differently than he did in film. His experience brings a kind of gravitas to the role - a spirituality that emphasizes Jesus' divine nature. Wilson communicated a clear authority as Jesus, a warmth I wasn't anticipating, and still, one of the most beautiful voices, while managing to put the rock into it that makes Superstar the rock opera it is. Very pleased. The only problem of course, is that if Wilson is Jesus, he cant be Judas too, and I did miss him in that role. Jason Klug could grow into the role if he plays a little more bad-ass and a little less scared-guy. 

All in all, a really wonderful evening. Some day, some day, I will figure out how to audition myself. Maybe tell my congregation all Holy Week services are via attending the show? 
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