The 50th-anniversary national tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar” now rocking the Durham Performing Arts Center delivers a top-notch and timeless production of the seminal musical anchored by a strong cast that you simply do not want to miss. The production, which originated in Britain and won the Olivier Award for best musical revival in 2016, manages to simultaneously embrace the rock-concert vibe and high energy originally intended for the musical while also feeling incredibly theatrical.
From the very start, this production, part rock concert, part dance show, part light show – will grab you and capture your attention for the full 90 minutes. There is no intermission, which I thought was just fine because you will not want to be interrupted. With music and lyrics by Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winners Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of Judas.
Aaron LaVigne does a fantastic job playing Jesus in this production with the vocal chops to handle the range required and he hits the high notes with ease as he plays his plugged-in acoustic guitar as he sings. Omar Lopez-Cepero was excellent as Judas and a perfect counterpoint to LaVigne’s Jesus. Jenna Rubaii is equally tremendous as Mary Magdalene. Her scenes where she comforts and supports Jesus provide soft spots in an otherwise hard-hitting musical. Rubaii’s rendition of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” is simply wonderful.
The supporting cast is mostly comprised of Jesus’ disciples and the various government officials hunting him down. This is one hard working ensemble as they are dancing non-stop throughout the show, and the choreography is superb. Their costuming, along with Jesus’ and Judas’, is simple. Hoodies, t-shirts, loose work-out clothes and sneakers. In contrast, the costumes for the priests are both simple and ornate.
The staging for this production is simple but very effective. The multi-level set, which elevates an 11-piece band looks like it is made from weathered I-beams and provides an industrial like backdrop with moving beams of lights enhance the Superstar experience.
This production of Superstar is as high energy as they come filled with rock and melodic ballads with a healthy dose of high drama and irreverence. I loved this show and think you will to. Don’t miss it this weekend as it wraps up its visit to Durham this Sunday!
“Jesus Christ Superstar performs at the Durham Performing Arts Center through Sunday, June 5th. For tickets and more information visit https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/jesus-christ-superstar.