Calling all devotees of Andrew Lloyd Webber and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” SDSU has mounted another of its mega-concerts of a musical… with a cast of thousands (well, nearly).
The School of Theatre, Television and Film has once again hooked up with the SDSU Symphony Orchestra and Concert Choirs for this mammoth production (two years ago they knocked everyone’s socks off with their concert version of “Les Miz”). The orchestra (under the direction of Michael Gerdes, with musical director Robert Meffe conducting) is 66-strong, with Nikko Nobleza rockin’ out on lead guitar.
The Fall ’16 University Chorus is 80-strong (under the direction of Dr. Patrick Walders), but it doesn’t seem that all of them are involved. The ones that are provide excellent backup for the 18 named main singers.
Since the music was originally composed as a concept album (released in 1970), it makes perfect sense in concert version – and leaves a bit more to the imagination, which is fine (do we really need to watch the flogging?).
Director Stephen Brotebeck encourages his singers to move and act, which allows them to display their individual personalities. The contrast between Jesus (superb-voiced Tug Watson) and Judas (Dominique D. Evans, who has masterful moments, though his voice sounded hoarse on opening night) is profound. Watson is calm, centered and beatific, effortless with the ultra-high notes. Evans is aggressive and defensive, which is just right.
Susanna Vaughan exhibits a marvelous voice as Mary Magdalene, who gets some of the best numbers in the show: “Everything’s Alright” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” It was a bold and interesting choice to have Annas (Kimberly Moller) and Caiaphas (Katie Banville) played by women, and they did a fine job, with a great deal of aptly arrogant attitude. Vinh Nguyen gets an impressive solo moment as Simon Zealotes. And then, Colden Lamb steals the show with his showy performance as the snarky, sarcastic Herod; during “Herod’s Song,” he grabs a hand mic (the rest of the cast use standing mics) and struts into the audience and across the expanse of the Don Powell Theatre for his amusing and ever-doubting take-down of the “king of the Jews.”
The lighting (AJ Paulin) is of the extreme, rock-concert variety: sometimes exciting, but overly reliant on the megawatts turned directly and blindingly on the audience. The cartoonish projections (Ray Leonard) don’t match the tone of the piece, but they are extremely effective in portraying the 40 lashes. The excellent sound design (Adam Danska) makes the lyrics crystal-clear, which isn’t always the case – onstage or on recordings. The costumes (Danita Lee) are minimal and flexible (some Apostles have to double as Priests and ‘Soul Girls’).
In sum, if this is your show, this is your production. It’s very well sung, and there’s plenty of hard-rockin’ as well as musical theater magic.
“JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR” runs through December 4 ONLY, in the Don Powell Theatre on the campus of SDSU. http://ttf.sdsu.edu/index.php/season_calendar/jesus-christ-superstar-in-concert