JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is one of my favorite productions. The first time I was introduced to it was in 1973 with the film version. I was mesmerized with the way the story was told using rock music. It was several years before I saw it on stage, and it was just as impactful.
Over the years different versions have come and gone, some were good, and some were not. One of the “nots” was the TV version starring John Legend. Sorry, but it just didn’t do it.
Now, the 50th Anniversary Tour has come to the Cadillac Palace Theatre here in Chicago. How did it hold up to my expectations?
The choreography was amazing, interesting, and new with constant movement. The band was spot on, but sometimes so loud it was hard to hear the lyrics to the songs. The voices were beyond good, and the cast was really great.
One of the cast members is Chicago born, raised in south suburban Markham, SandyRedd. SandyRedd’s roles in the production include ensemble member, soul singer, and one of Peter’s Accusers.
SandyRedd is also the understudy for the role of Judas. Yes, I said Judas. She is the first female to perform the role in a Broadway production. I asked her how she got the nerve to even audition for the role.
She responded, “So I went to a couple of different key people. I was like, Yo, I’m Judas. This is my role. I was born for Judas.”
The multifaceted performer went on to say, “But of course, with us being so comfortable with our different people that we’ve been touring with, I don’t necessarily think anybody took me seriously. So, I got some advice from a dear friend of mine, and he was like, ‘Just put it on tape. Just put it on tape and send it. Once they see it, they can’t unsee it.’
“I think with any role where they don’t want to change the key, they don’t want to change the dynamic of the role, it’s hard for somebody to see a female play a very strong, very dominant male role.”
She sent the tape, didn’t change the key, and blew them away and got one of the understudy spots.
SandyRedd performed the role of Judas at the matinee performance on Saturday, July 30.
Now, my thoughts on the production as a whole.
With all the great voices, choreography, set, and costumes, and music, the production feels more like a concert than a musical with a meaning.
There were only a few of the main characters that I felt any emotion from. Omar Lopez-Cepero as Judas was very good and even with mic in hand, he showed emotion. I felt his dilemma in betraying Jesus. Jenna Rubaii’s Mary was perfect. She was vulnerable and her voice is beautiful. The character of Pilate is played by Tommy Sherlock. I have always loved that character in general because of the turmoil he goes through in condemning Jesus, plus you see him change.
I would have loved Aaron LaVigne as Jesus if he had been allowed to be Jesus and not some rock star. Every time he picked up the guitar to play, he wasn’t Jesus any more he was just some guy singing a song. The magic for me and some others I spoke with is that the role of Jesus is different for all the other characters in the play.
In the film, we see the actors get off the bus and prepare to shoot a film, we know it isn’t real; however, at the end everyone gets on the bus except the person who played Jesus. You can see that the cast had been changed.
In stage plays I have seen, what affected me was when Jesus was played in a way that he was a part of the show but still separate. The way this production is directed, I felt nothing during the crucifixion, in fact, the band and moaning was so loud you couldn’t hear the words spoken on the cross.
I did love the ending with Jesus and Judas. It was different and a topic for conversation. Was Judas forgiven? You will have to see the production for yourself.
Visit www.broadwayinchicago.com for more information on the show.
All in all, I give the 50th Anniversary Tour of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR 4 out of 5 winks of the EYE!
Until next time, keep your EYE to the sky!