It is definitely not DCCLXXXVI on the Roman calendar. The crowd is in modern day clothes. Current headlines of turmoil are flashed onto the backdrop. A single man is the focus on stage. He strolls blessing the throng, preaching peace and love. Yet we know he is Jesus Christ just a few days before his death in “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” opening this week at the Bay Street Theater in Eustis.
Andrew Lloyd Webber adds the dimension of music to the story well told in The Gospels.
Yes, it is a rock opera and herein lies the beauty and the traps of the stage. Director Sylvia Viles bravely takes a modern-day approach to tell the story and heavily relies on motion and pageantry. The trap is that lyrics do not exactly quote the Gospel, therefore, if the sound and diction are not close to perfection, the audience gets lost.
Kyle Stone (Jesus Christ) captures the essence of the part, but lacks the commanding voice needed to carry this part. Justin Oritz (Judas) takes on his assignment seriously, but leaves too much of the lyrics on the stage, rather than out into the audience. Even with body microphones, both leads are smothered by the overpowering music in the first act of opening night. Even front row Villagers quizzed at the intermission were dismayed. Some correction seemed to be made as the second act audio became much crisper.
Kat Johnson (Mary Magdalene) and Jonathan Olson (Pilate), come through loud and clear. Close behind is Joey Sikkema (Peter) in an anchor emblazoned T-shirt.
The chorus is well coached and blocked. Dance numbers are correct and clever. The central descending staircase is used to its maximum.
The closing crucifixion scene is spectacular. However, a long delay with a closed curtain deprived many of the brief concluding resurrection scene and curtain call.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs weekends through May 3. For exact times and dates visit their Web Site at www.baystreetplayers.org.
Jack Petro reviews local theater for Villages-News.com