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A ‘Superstar’ rock concert

I am going to have to agree with Judas: The new Broadway staging of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is like a rock concert inside of a play, with break out dance concerts throughout and a fair bit of glitter and gold.

This is how the show, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, sparkles.

And it’s at the Hippodrome through Dec. 22.

Concert effects

Like all good rock concerts, the staging and special effects of “Jesus Christ Superstar” evoke moment and emotion, and in this case, also advance the plot.

Superstar rock concert
Photo: Matthew Murphy

The set is a two-story façade with the band playing on the second floor, a troop of excellent rockers who literally oversee the show and jam out when they need to. Below them, characters enter and exit the stage on a ramp that is a cast down cross, and at one point, scepters double as microphones. There are masks, a perfectly staged Last Supper and a dancer whose frenetic moves serve as harbinger for the action to come.

Symbols and song

While the action starts slowly, the play crescendos into a final scene of rock glory in which all symbolism harmonizes in way befitting a bible story. This show is not just big and loud; it’s well thought out.

Superstar rock concert
Photo: Matthew Murphy

In our interview with James Delisco Beeks, who plays Judas, he discussed how “Superstar” sheds light onto one of history’s most misunderstood characters.  While I agree, I wanted even more insight into Judas. He is definitely a character worth exploring.

Today’s relevance

Beeks also discussed the play’s relevance today and the idea of groupthink as well as a “cult of personality.” Nowhere are these two concepts more evident than in the excellent dancing from the hoodie-clad ensemble, apostles and crowd who look like today’s teenagers. Their choreography mixes modern dance and hip hop in a way that is always a commentary on the action.

It’s awesome to watch, actually.

A further note on the contemporary costumes: Jesus, played by Aaron LaVigne, sports a man bun, another perfect touch to the story line.

Superstar rock concert
Photo: Matthew Murphy

This was my first time seeing the play, although I grew up listening to and knowing some of the songs, a testament to the popularity of Andrew Lloyd Weber. Hearing “Everything’s Alright” live for the first time was a treat and I find myself humming it today.

That’s the thing about this play: Just when you think it’s too over the top or too obvious in its shine and guitar, it sneaks up on you.

Much like the way that religion in real life can do the same.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” is at The Hippodrome Dec. 17-22. The show returns to this area April 14-26, when it will be staged at the Kennedy Center. france-merrickpac.com.

About Jessica Gregg

Jessica Gregg is the editor of Baltimore's Child. She is a happy rowhouse dweller and mother of two.

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