Jesus Christ Superstar Review – Lyric Opera of Chicago Does it Proud

At the last supper - Lyric Opera Presents Jesus Christ Superstar © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

I had the opportunity to see Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Jesus Christ Superstar on April 28, and it is a must see. With performances through May 20, Lyric is the only place to offer the grand scale of this acclaimed production in its first staging outside London. It is an “over the top” experience.

Ryan Shaw (Judas), Heath Saunders (Jesus), Photo: Andrew Cloffi

The power and scope of this work presenting its story with music and dance and no spoken words takes its place alongside classic operas such as Carmen, the Ring Cycle, Don Carlo and more, but done differently. This iconic rock opera reinvented musical theater for the modern age. It tells the story of the last week in the life of Jesus Christ, from the perspective of Judas Iscariot. As Christ’s followers grow more fervent, Judas must make his fateful choice between faith and betrayal. The music offers an exciting mix of musical styles that draw upon 1970s rock, gospel, folk and funk.

 

It was clear that the audience loved this performance. It is likely that most of the audience knew every word that was sung. And knowing the words will enhance the enjoyment of the production. My friend loved this production and she and her husband knew the complete libretto but friends that went with them did not know the words and had trouble following the story. And the words are so good.


Lyric Opera Presents Jesus Christ Superstar, Piano Run through Act 1
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

I have been amazed at the number of people who have stories of the first time they saw Jesus Christ Superstar, sometimes in local productions and other times in major productions all around the country. In each case the experience was memorable, as the Lyric production is.

Lyric Opera Presents Jesus Christ Superstar, Dress Rehearsal (see the gold)
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

Jesus Christ Superstar had its world premiere on October 12, 1971 in New York at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. This Regent’s Park Theatre, London production with Artistic Director, Timothy Sheader and Executive Director, William Village was first performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago on April 27, 2018. I will not quickly forget the incredible voices, staging, music, dancing, costuming and scope of the performance.

Lyric Opera Presents Jesus Christ Superstar, Dress Rehearsal
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

The work began in 1965 when 17 year old Andrew Lloyd Webber received a letter from a then aspiring lyricist, Tim Rice. After a few years of collaboration they had some songs but no productions. They decided to work with the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ, and focus on Judas, working with ideas of fame, control, and politics. When they failed to gain backing for this work, they followed a method that had worked for another show, “Tommy”, and in 1969 they released a title track single which was followed by the complete album release in 1970. The album reached #1 on the charts and Broadway opened its doors, followed by a West End production in 1972, a film in 1973, and the momentum continued. Wikipedia lists performances from 1970 to 2018 wikipedia-Jesus Christ Superatar

Jo Lampert (the perfect Mary Magdalene) Lyric Opera Presents Jesus Christ Superstar, Dress Rehearsal © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

The Lyric production features Heath Saunders (Jesus), Ryan Shaw (Judas), Jo Lampert (Mary Magdalene), Michael Cunio (Pilate), Mykal Kilgore (Simon Zealotes), Shaun Fleming (Herod), Joseph Anthony Byrd (Annas), Cavin Cornwall (Caiaphas) and Andrew Mueller (Peter), with a total of 48 cast members and 37 musicians, including members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The London performances comprised 11 musicians and 27 cast members.

Joseph Anthony Byrd- Annas Lyric Opera Presents Jesus Christ Superstar
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

The original creative team, including music director Tom Deering, Olivier Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie, Tony Award-nominated set & costume designer Tom Scutt, and Olivier Award-nominated lighting designer Lee Curran. The Chicago production will also feature members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Sound and lighting need credit as well.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Lyric Opera of Chicago, © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

Making this production outstanding are 24 musical numbers with 56 mics amplifying the sound, 101 lights illuminating the 37-foot cross, 90 pounds of gold confetti, and 80 artists on stage enhancing the singing, dancing and energy of the production.  Don’t miss the chance to see the powerhouse performance!

Shaun Fleming (Herod) with a 28 foot gold cape, Lyric Opera Presents Jesus Christ Superstar, Dress Rehearsal
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

 

To learn more about Jesus Christ Superstar, go to Jesus Christ Superstar website or visit LyricOpera website. You can also join the conversation with @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #LyricJCS  #Lyric1718 #LongLivePassion

 

 

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