Theater Review: "Jesus Christ Superstar"

Kyle Short as Jesus in Welk Resort's theater production of "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

If you’re like me in thinking “Jesus Christ Superstar” by far the best musical Andrew Lloyd Webber ever wrote, I have great news for you: Welk Resorts Theatre has a smashing production on the boards as we speak, directed and choreographed by Ray Limón. I suggest you get your tickets now.

“Superstar” began as a concept album in 1970; the Broadway musical (with lyrics by Tim Rice) opened in 1971.

“Superstar” tells the story of Jesus’ last days on earth, when he was targeted by both the Jewish elders and the Romans (who thought he was dangerous and spouting heresy), betrayed and denied by two of his own disciples, and finally crucified to satisfy an angry mob.

This was a different kind of god, who consorted with common people and taught that we should help not just family and friends but needy strangers. But the followers he attracted made the powers that be (especially the ruling Romans) nervous.

He was misunderstood, even by his own disciples. Wondering why he would lower himself to hang out with a prostitute like Mary Magdalene, Judas (who would later betray him) wanted to keep a low profile, fearing “They’ll crush us if we go too far.”

But Mary (Catrina Teruel) gave Jesus what he needed: a soothing touch, a cool cloth on his forehead, and assurance that “Everything’s Alright” (it wasn’t).

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem triumphantly, surrounded by fans waving palm leaves, the Romans took note. Throwing the moneychangers out of the temple was the last straw, and the decision was made that “This Jesus Must Die.”

Judas is played with convincing realism and spectacular musicality by Dominique Petit Frere, with a voice that can soar into the stratosphere of this rock opera, seemingly without effort.

Kyle Short plays Jesus as a man with a mission, but one who would be glad to forgo martyrdom if possible. He has both the musical and acting chops to get his points across.

Teruel is both lovely and solicitous and delivers beautifully on her big number, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.”

“Superstar” still packs them in, 40-plus years later, especially with the somewhat scurrilous (but hilarious) vaudeville-inspired “Herod’s Song,” in which the ruler (Ryan Dietrich, in a shiny white spangled outfit) and seven high-kicking dancers form a chorus line and invite Jesus to “Prove to me that You're no fool/Walk across my swimming pool.”

The set (by Jennifer Edwards and Ray Limón) is a dual-level affair with steep stairs on either side and two huge crosses in the middle. There is a balcony on either side for the elders and Pilate to speak (or sing) directly to us.

Limón keeps this big cast (22) scampering across this rather small stage (of which every inch is in use) with great alacrity, aided by four mighty musicians (including Musical Director Justin Gray) who keep the rock score coming.

Limón’s sprightly choreography is a decided plus as well.

This “Superstar” aims to please, and it does.

The details

“Jesus Christ Superstar” plays through August 7, 2016 at Welk Resort Theatre San Diego, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido.

Thursday and Saturday at 1 and 8 p.m.; Sunday at 1 p.m.

Tickets: (888) 802-7469 or welkresorts.com