If you have not yet booked tickets to see “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Hamilton’s Hillfield Strathallan College, then do so now. It’s outstanding ! The run is limited to three performances: Thursday December 3 and Friday December 4 beginning at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday afternoon at 2:00.
This production is far from the average high school musical. The set is a minimalist industrial space which uses the sidewalls of the auditorium for the projection of media which range from news clippings of the sights and sounds of Occupy, to text messages, Facebook likes, and vivid graphics. It’s an edgy and relevant backdrop for an age old story of love, betrayal, compassion, remorse and resignation.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” is the story told through song of the last week of Christ, from the time he enters Jerusalem until his crucifixion. The relationships between and amongst Jesus (Adrian Felice), Judas (Michael Lewis) and Mary (Sasha Paikin) are at the forefront. Judas is portrayed as a friend who is worried about the throngs who gather around Jesus calling him the King of the Jews. He fears it could spell trouble with the Roman rulers and bring harm to Jesus and his disciples. Judas is also unsettled by, and perhaps jealous of the deepening friendship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
About the time the priests—Caiaphas (Ryan Bennett), Annas (Allie Snopek)— become alarmed by the threat that Jesus could present to their authority, Pontius Pilate (Nicholas Richardson), the Roman governor, has a dream that he will be held responsible for the death of a man from Galilee. When Jesus becomes enraged by the debauchery taking place within the Temple his fate is sealed. The priests and the angry crowd will have their way.
This production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is the ultimate team performance with every cast member, student stage crew/technician, teacher, and adult volunteer contributing to its success. The performances are polished; the actors have embraced their roles. The ensemble and the disciples are a capable core. They move with ease between being a riotous crowd to a rapt audience. The leads have challenging solos which they sing superbly: Caiaphas’ slow and low bass underscores the power that he holds within the Temple; Judas’ anger and his anguish comes forth in a raw edged tenor; Mary’s compassion is expressed with both strength and sweetness; Pilate’s torment as he determines justice is clear and measured; Herod’s (Brendan Darcel) narcissism is both campy and irreverent; and Jesus, who has a full range of emotions to express, does so with eloquence.
The costumes have the look of soft grunge and suit the production. (Look for the armbands on the disciples.) The choreography is tight, fresh and well executed. The musicians are accomplished. And the lighting/media screens are timely and effective.
It’s a superb production. I saw the dress rehearsal which was close to flawless. But why believe me? Buy a ticket and see for yourself.