Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 10, 2010

Jesus Christ Superstar

Academy of Music, Northampton, MA
through April 11, 2010
by Eric Sutter

It's about time... give it up to PACE (Pioneer Arts Center of Easthampton) to achieve this level of greatness in modern theatre. Directors David and Sonia Fried Oppenheim have staged a contemporary take of the 1970 rock musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" with MTV style choreography by Mary Ann Holmes. Kudos to the entire cast and ensemble of musicians, dancers and singers for a most successful rendition of the rock opera.

The opening eerie electric guitar chords to "Overture" set the tone for the clap dance of "Heaven on Their Minds." Enter Judas (Michael Holt) with his dark brooding presence. Jesus (John Losito), with guitar, joins Mary Magdalene (Teresa Lorenco) in the dance troupe on "What's The Buzz." This was first-rate acting and singing. The set was simple...staging with four television screens and use of the backdrop which periodically showed projected images. Paparazzi with video cameras, cell phones and other high tech devices followed every move of Jesus -- simultaneously adding to the drama and playing upon the confusion of the purposely distracted society onstage. Jesus was a modern day rock star with human frailities, particularly in relationship with Mary Magdalene. She exhibited the mystique of the sacred feminine with "Everything's Alright." "This Jesus Must Die" was a question-answer scene with Judas, Caiaphas (Rick Sheldon) and Annas (Martin Meccouri).

Act II featured "The Last Supper," depicted by an image of The Garden of Gethsemane's Sushi & Steak House. "The Arrest" and "Peter's Denial" built dramatic tension...enter Judas with the kiss of death. Betrayal turns to "Pilate and Christ" with Jason-Rose Langston as the cynical Pilate. "King Herod's Song" brought comedic relief with Frank Borelli as a drag queen with a sexy chorus line in tow. Accolades to guitarist Eric Lee for his musical leadership. "Judas' Death" was suicide by pistol and the band rocked out. During the "Trial Before Pilate" the tide turns against Jesus as the followers condemn him by throwing CD cases. An image of the ghost of Judas appears singing "Jesus Christ Superstar." A curious twist in the story occurs after "The Crucifixion" which especially makes this a must-see show.