I had the pleasure of attending the fantastic opening night of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Aronoff last night. For those unfamiliar with this show, the plot follows the last days of Jesus Christ leading up Jesus’ crucifixion. The current tour is celebrating the 50th anniversary of this iconic rock musical. Music and lyrics are written Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice with direction and choreography by Timothy Sheader and Drew McOnie.
Opening on Broadway in 1971, this musical offered a different perspective of the world surrounding Jesus Christ. Classic musicals appeal to audiences because of the way music can often remind us of a simpler time. Though, they can also run the risk of being overdone in an uninspiring way. With Sheader’s direction and McOnie’s choreography, they help push this musical into a new era. While the set is minimal, it provides a sense of intimacy between the audience and characters on stage.
The musical numbers are phenomenal. From “Heaven on their Minds” to the 11 o’ clock showstopper, “Superstar,” the actors make each song their own. Whether it is an intentional choice or not, Jack Hopewell’s take on Jesus Christ feels as though he is approaching this character from a place of hesitancy. This allows space for Hopewell, as Jesus, to help build up tension between himself and Judas played by Elvie Ellis. Ellis fully embraces Judas with his portrayal. Hopewell and Ellis balance each other out and created the perfect vocal storm.
If you’re someone who appreciates musical theatre, particularly older shows, I can’t recommend Jesus Christ Superstar enough! It’s a moving piece of theatre that remains relevant, even 50 years after that first Broadway opening.
Jesus Christ Superstar is being presented December 6 through December 18 at the Aronoff Center, part of the Fifth Third’s Broadway in Cincinnati Series. Tickets can be found here, at the official box office website. The show runs about 90 minutes with no intermission.