Martyrdom has never been so fun -- 'Superstar' rocks

by Brent Reidy | 5/13/02 5:00am

When originally released in October 1970, "Jesus Christ Superstar" was the subject of controversy among many religious groups. The rock opera tells the story of the last seven days of Christ's life as seen through the eyes of Judas, providing a take on the story one does not often hear in Sunday school. Since the 1970s, the show has been reproduced multiple times, always creating some kind of media uproar.

In a setting such as Dartmouth, the topics "Superstar" raises are old and commonplace. Thankfully, producer Jessica Meed '00 and director Brian Gray '02 know the show's past, and moved away from highlighting the controversial. Instead, Friday night on Tuck Mall, the performance of the opera was a more fun and light-hearted one than has been produced before, taking a new, more whimsical take on this musical.

The actors made sure not to take their roles too seriously, creating characters that were entertaining and more accessible to the audience. Highlights of the show included Ben Doyle '02, Ben Mills '03, Thom Pasculli '05 and Pat Brady '05 as drunken apostles, singing of the last supper in a barbershop quartet. The high priests, arguably the darkest characters in the original production, were portrayed with an insightful mirth. Additionally, five members of the Cords played the role of King Herod while imitating N'SYNC, in a song number that left a smile on each audience member's face.

The music of "Jesus Christ Superstar" is known for its fun, rowdy, rock 'n' roll nature, and this production's pit band did not disappoint. Serving triple roles, Gray conducted the show's music and played keyboards, in addition to directing the entire show. The music of the show is far from simple, filled with time changes and different song styles ranging from power rock to touching ballads.

The production's band handled each type of music well, never missing a cue and always perfectly accenting the singers. The rhythm section, led by freshman Kabir Sehgal's booming bass, gave the show energy and bounce; compulsory foot tapping and smiling were impossible to hold back given the section's liveliness.

Despite its gaiety, the show was not without its serious side. John Brett '00 shined in his role as Pontius Pilate, bringing the scene depicting the flogging of Jesus to a climatic high, chilling the audience with his emotive vocals. In addition, Rachel Ciprotti '02's Mary Magladene was both touching and sincere.

On the whole, casting for the show was terrific. Sarah Ries '04's falsetto voice was remarkable, instilling strength to the character of Jesus. Kimberly Marable '05 as Simon Zealotes was both wise and entertaining; the young diva's song and dance number was a high point of the show.

The show, though, was stolen by Ciprotti's portrayal of Mary Magladene. She acted a spectrum of emotions through the night, taking care to make sure each was sung sincerely.

Unfortunately, the character of Judas was cast erroneously. Nick Vogt '00 has an amazing singing voice, but its classical flavor was not suited to the role. The character of Judas needed a hard-rock edge; Vogt's portrayal of Judas seemed lifeless next to Mary Magladene and Jesus.

The only other major drawback to the show was the sound production. All the singers were amazing, when one could hear them. Most lead vocal lines were only miked after halfway sung. Apparently, the sound crew did not have enough time to prepare, which is a shame considering the high level of professionalism in other aspects of the show.

On the other hand, the sound crew provided an amazing mix, that is technically astounding considering the outside venue and the show's combination of vocals, chorus and 12-piece musical ensemble.

In a testament to the popularity of this 30 year-old show, the production drew a dedicated crowd of about 500 people, despite cold temperatures and violent winds. Old and young members of the audience could even be heard singing along to the show throughout the night.

Even Safety and Security enjoyed "Jesus Christ Superstar." Officer Bobby Young said, "I've seen this show five times, and this by far is the best production."