Jesus Christ Superstar
Old Colony Players, Valdese, NC
Box Office: 828-522-1150
April 5-7, 12-14, and 17-20
Rock Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Review posted Apr 15, 2019
If you are looking for something to do this weekend, I recommend you visit the Fred B. Cranford Amphitheatre in Valdese where The Old Colony Players are presenting Jesus Christ Superstar for one more weekend. My husband and I attended their performance last Friday night and we had a great time watching the show.
This famous rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice details the ministry of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, focusing on the last week of his life. It received five Tony nominations when it opened in 1971 and became the United Kingdom’s longest-running musical after it opened there the following year. Since then, it has been performed all over the world and has been adapted for TV and film numerous times as well. This was a well-timed musical selection for Old Colony Players, being right before Easter.
The weather cooperated last Friday as the actors moved around on a bare-earth stage filled with sand underneath a cool April sky. Edyth Pruitt staged this beautifully, employing every area of a multi-level stage. I don’t want to spoil the surprise if you haven’t seen it, so I will just say that Judas’s death is just about the coolest way I’ve ever seen this staged. And I absolutely loved the moment at the end when Mary Magdalene mimes seeing Jesus again after the crucifixion. That was a master stroke of foretelling the resurrection, something Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice unfortunately left out of their musical. Tali Barlaz did a great job setting a late 60s/early 70s vibe with the costuming without being too date-specific. The cast seemed very comfortable with Sonya Briggs’s choreography. The can-can dancers during Herod’s solo were particularly fun. There were some sound snafus, but overall the lighting and sound were seamless. I did miss seeing a live orchestra for the performance. However, the cast did very well with the recorded accompaniment.
Hayden Robinson really stood out as Jesus. That role is not an easy one vocally, and I was amazed as he smoothly navigated from the high heavy-metal screaming tones of Jesus’ anger to the soft lower registers with no hint of crackling of the vocal cords. Justin Thomas as Judas impressively handled all the conflicted emotions of a very challenging role. Caiaphas, Annas, and the High Priests (Roy Lightfoot, Daniel Taber, James Grose, Amber Hart, and Jessica Newsome Hoyle) didn’t have a weak voice among them, and any one of them could have played their roles on a professional stage. Cameron Brent Carroll as Peter has a great voice, and did particularly well in his scenes with Rachel Wyatt as Mary Magdalene, whose smoky tones seemed notably tailor-made for “Could We Start Again Please?” Kenneth Davis as a morally conflicted Pontius Pilate and Jeff Hatley as a playboy buffoonish King Herod both brought their characters to life masterfully. The entire cast approached their roles with beautiful sincerity and the confidence of true storytellers.
Jesus Christ Superstar will be playing one more weekend in Valdese, Wednesday through Saturday (Apr 17-20). Shows are at 7:30pm in the amphitheatre at 401 Church St. NW.