Barn Resurrects Lloyd Webber 'Superstar' PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 09 July 2016 14:18

It would be impossible to list the most famous composers of musical theater over the past seven decades and not put Andrew Lloyd Webber somewhere near the top of that list — whether you’re a fan of his music or not.

A goodly number of those on the positive side cheered for the production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” which opened Tuesday evening at The Barn Theatre in Augusta, MI.

Jesus Christ Superstar The Barn Theatre Augusta MIThis is the third Barn Theatre production of the ALW blockbuster which first saw theatrical life as a rock opera concept album in 1971. Never one to let a good (i.e. successful) work go unplumbed, “Superstar” was soon morphed into a stage musical followed by a film.

There are those who are very partial to the music but think it best enjoyed only when listened to. Putting a face — or faces — onto the abstract is challenging to say the least and, for the most part, falls short of the music-only concept.

Jesus Chrisst Superstar  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIFor those who like everything visualized — even characters and situations that are better left to one’s own imagination — The Barn has your answer (through July 17).

Under the direction of producer/director Brendan Ragotzy, who also plays Pontius Pilate, the focus is on the final events in the final week in the life of Jesus (played by Jay Poff), beginning with the growing doubts of Judas Iscariot (Eric Parker) as he watches Jesus preach to the then-adoring masses (“Heaven On Their Minds”).

A proponent of “action-first,” Judas fails to understand why Jesus is holding back, believing that his kingdom is of the material kind.

The shifting face the crowd — make that any crowd — is lyrically depicted as they demand to know “What’s The Buzz?” while the temple priests Caiaphas (Charlie King), Annas, (Patrick Hunter) and others are adamant that “Jesus Must Die.”

Even if your last connection with the events of Passion Week was in Sunday school, everyone knows where this story will end. But Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice include some unfamiliar twists to the scenario of this rock opera.

Jesus Christ Superstar  The Barn Theatre Augusta MIWhat if Judas was also a part of the plan to make sure Jesus didn’t avoid his tragic end, a thought that crosses his mind (“Gethsemane”) while the apostles sleep..

But no chance.

After being shuffled from Roman ruler to Hebrew king to priests and back again, finally, at the will of the mob, the mystery reaches it’s foregone conclusion on that inevitable hill, leaving the tragic central figure alone, as he always was, while friends and foes silently slip away.

The Barn production is fairly consistent in doing vocal justice to the score. Eric Parker is a wildly volatile Judas, facing off well with Poff’s cautiously laid-back hero.

Samantha Rickard, in-and-out vocally as Mary Magdaline, has the show’s best known solo ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” She is the only female on stage in a dress, indicative of ?

The ensemble costumes seem to circle around 1968, with the ladies trending towards “Hair” and the men, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” The priests, draped darkly from head to toe and balancing monumentally menacing headgear throughout, most resembled The Knights of Ni from “Spamalot.” The white finale outfits were… puzzling.

One really kampy bit which always stops the show (and did so here) was John Jay Espino and his Vegas-style backup singers in “Herod’s Song.”

As from almost every other theatrical production of this still-popular work, it continues to be obvious that presentation in its original form — a rock opera concept album — is how it can best be appreciated.

Static staging inhibits every “live” production, including the 1975 film version. Set here against a background of outlined sailing ship masts or telephone poles (couldn’t decide which), the throbbingly repetitive chorus pieces seem to prohibit matching choreography and the material appears to overawe performers.

How would you play Jesus???

‘JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR” plays through July 17 in The Barn Theatre on M-96 between Galesburg and Augusta, MI. For information and reservations call (269) 731-4121 or visit

Last Updated on Saturday, 09 July 2016 14:45

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