Jesus Christ Superstar | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Jesus Christ Superstar 

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Jesus Christ Superstar, Shubert Theatre. Mel Gibson's purportedly anti-Semitic film about the death of Jesus Christ has its artistic precedents, including Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's 1971 musical. It may not name names, but it points fingers. In its depiction of Christ's expulsion of the moneylenders from the temple, high priest Caiaphas passes the hat to nattily attired Wall Street brokers; later Caiaphas praises Judas's treachery as "the saving of Israel."

As if to balance this possible defamation, Jesus Christ Superstar omits the resurrection, epiphany, and ascension. This Jesus, though ever uncertain of his mission, is definitely a superstar, but nothing here implies he's the Son of God.

For most audience members that won't matter. They come for the rock-solid score; as eclectic as the same team's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, this musical varies from R & B to vaudeville. Kevin Moriarty's touring production is sumptuously lit and prodigiously amplified, delivering a vibrant two-hour rock oratorio; a souped-up young cast performs Dana Solimando's pile-driving dances. Eric Kunze plays Jesus as elaborately anguished, wondering whether he can live up to his own PR. As mother-lover Mary Magdalene, Natalie Toro convinces us she really doesn't know how to love him. Unleashing a falsetto that fairly scrapes the Shubert ceiling, Lawrence Clayton gives Judas an operatic bravura as the apostle persuades himself that betrayal is a good career move.

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