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Theater Review: "Jesus Christ Superstar In Concert"

Photo credit:
Ken Jacques

I’m always happy when “Jesus Christ Superstar” is on the boards again. The 1971 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is not only my favorite of all his shows, but to me the only really good show he’s ever written.

Now the students at San Diego State University take a crack at the concert version of the 1971 rock opera that tells the story of Jesus’ last week on earth.

They’ve done it proud.

The stage is crowded with the various SDSU concert choirs and the 66-piece orchestra, and flanked by two screens which tell us where we are in the story.

The major singers are ranged in chairs in front for this story pitting Roman political repression against dangerous (to the state) religious fervor. That the ending is never in doubt doesn’t diminish the thrill of this excellent production.

In this telling, Judas is a friend and apostle of Jesus, but he fears the Roman hammer and wants Jesus to tone down his pitch because “they’ll crush us if we go too far.”

Domonique D. Evans, with a voice that seems to reach easily into the stratosphere, plays the heck out of the push-pull drama going on in Judas’ mind – he wants to support the insurrection, but doesn’t want to feel the Roman boot.

Tug Watson has the soaring tenor voice demanded for the Jesus role as well as the dramatic chops to pull off his anger, fear and sorrow. He’s a pleasure to listen to.

Susanna Vaughan is effective as Mary Magdalene and absolutely heartbreaking in the ballad “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.”

Katie Banville (no stranger to the San Diego theater scene) sings the bass role of Caiaphas with amazing authority, sealing Jesus’ fate with the line “For the sake of this nation/this Jesus must die.”

Jonathan Brugioni is fine as Pontius Pilate, who doesn’t see Jesus as that much of a threat and  tries to foist off the crucifixion judgment onto King Herod.

Colden Lamb’s King Herod nearly steals the show with his taunting, vaudeville-inflected challenge to Jesus to “walk across my swimming pool.”

Kimberly Moller, Vinh Nguyen and Leo Yu-Ning Chang are also fine in the roles of Annas, Simon Zealotes and Peter.

The combined forces of the SDSU choirs and orchestra give power and heft to the proceedings. 

One minor cavil: The projections aren’t always clear or helpful. But that’s a minor thing.

This “Superstar” is a fine rendering of this much-loved rock opera. But hurry; only three performances remain.

The details

“Jesus Christ Superstar In Concert” plays through December 4, 2016 at SDSU’s Don Powell Theatre.

Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm.; Sunday at 2 pm

Tickets: (619) 594-6365 or ttf.sdsu.edu/index.php/season_calendar/jesus-christ-superstar-in-concert