The Fox Theater is the current stop of the 50th anniversary tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. This re-imagined production fuses elements of a rock concert and musical theater to create a totally absorbing, deeply moving experience.
Jesus Christ Superstar first came out as a concept album because the creators, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, could not find a producer willing to stage it. The album’s success led to many stagings. The ones for large venues sometimes featured glitz that was ill-suited to a story from the Bible. The 50th anniversary tour is a useful corrective to stagings with irrelevant spectacle. The production is based on the one that won the 2017 Olivier Award at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Under Timothy Sheader’s direction, the performers sing into mics in their hands or on stands, as they would at a concert, but they interact with one another in character. Their performances are compelling. Drew McOnie’s astonishing choreography unfailingly supports the emotions and significance of the moment. One brilliant number quickly follows another without an intermission, so the running time is close to the original album’s 90 minutes.
The excellent cast is headed by Jack Hopewell as Jesus, Elvie Ellis as Judas, and Faith Jones as Mary. The featured performers are Grant Hodges as Caiphas, Nicholas Hambruch as Pilate, Kodiak Thompson as Annas, Brent Hennessey Jones as Simon, Erich W. Schleck as Herod, and Colin Robertson as Peter.
The Tom Scutt’s scenic and costume designs establish a timeless setting for the action. One of set’s the most notable features is a large cross resting horizontally on the stage. One of its uses is as the table for the Last Supper. Lee Curran’s lighting and Keith Caggiano’s sound are filled with remarkable effects. The orchestra plays beautifully under music director Binns.
When Judas puts his hands into the chest with the 30 pieces silver, his hands come out covered in silver paint. From then on, the silver hands are a continual reminder of Judas’s betrayal.
Jesus Christ Superstar continues through May 21 at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard.
Photo by Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
Elvie Ellis (Judas) and the company of the North American Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.