|Brendan Duquette in and as "Jesus Christ Superstar"|
(photo: Company Theatre)
In1970, Andrew Lloyd Webber (Music) and Tim Rice (Lyrics) created the first megahit rock musical, and it was a revelation. The popularity of their concept album version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” led to its re-creation a year later on Broadway, where it had an unprecedented run (for such a radically new incarnation) of over 700 performances, leading to a film and revivals. It's the current production by The Company Theatre in Norwell, where it's closer to heaven. While the original 1971 Broadway production was so outrageously overproduced that Lloyd Webber himself disclaimed it (though he didn't do likewise with his royalties), this version is truer to its source and spirit.
A huge part of its success was the casting in the title role of Brendan Duquette, who has made almost a cottage industry out of playing J.C., having twice played the lead in two versions of “Godspell”, most recently at Plymouth's Priscilla Beach Theatre. (Full disclosure: this critic was a part of the cast of disciples in that production). Duquette, well received in these prior roles, has matured into an even more estimable actor, singer and dancer thanks to his recent studies in New York; his was a truly charismatic performance. It was a triumph for Duquette as he led a cast of almost three dozen actors featuring the terrific David L. Jiles, Jr. (in the pivotal role of Judas) and the lovely-voiced Caitlin Ford (Mary Magdalene). The rest of this energetic and talented cast consisted of fine singing actors in the roles of Pilate (Matthew Maggio), Caiaphas (Christopher J. Hapberg), Annas (James A. Valentin), 3rd Priest (Chris Joseffy), Peter (Ryan Barrow), Andrew (Francis Sheehan), Matthew (Christopher Spencer), John (Alex Moon), James the Greater (John Crampton), James the Lesser (Evan Pouch), Bartholomew (J. J. O'Sullivan), Thomas (Nick Alessi), Simon (Sam Patch), Phillip (Justin Selig), Jude (Bruno Barbuto), and King Herod (John F. King). The effective ensemble included Meghan Boutilier, Nicole Andreas, Emily Arsenault, Ellie Baumgarten, Madison Carroll, Kristin Lynn Connelly, Ora Neufville, Jessy Rowe, Maureen Rowe and Brianne Taber. Though all were memorable, there were a few standouts, including Maggio's “Pilate's Dream”, Ford and Barrow's duet “Could We Start Again, Please?” and of course Ford's “I Don't Know How to Love Him”. The production was directed by Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman, with Staging by Sally Ashton Forrest. The cast, it should be noted, always seemed to be aware of exactly where they should be, not an easy task with a troupe of this size. The Costume Design was by Cameron McEachern, with Lighting Design by Jonathan Sikora and Set Design by co-director Bradford. Musical Direction was by Michael V. Joseph, leading a fourteen piece orchestra.
For those looking for an appropriate show for this time of the year, “Jesus Christ Superstar” could be just the ticket, despite the questionable theology here and there. It's a bit of a spring awakening to find that what was once considered radical is now looked upon as mainstream. This production (unlike that glitzy original Broadway version) always has its heart in the right place. If it's too contemporary for some folks, there's always the original Book.