Quote of the Day: If His story doesn’t do it, the brilliant vocals in the Ordway’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar will bring you to your knees. My own words after experiencing this stunning theatrical production. James Rocco has outdone himself with his cast, crew, and staging of this iconic rock opera. 

Review of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ordway in St. Paul, MN

Randy Schmeling (front, as Judas) and Jesse Nager (Jesus) in Jesus Christ Superstar (Photo by Rich Ryan)

The two most powerful voices embody the the two most powerful characters in Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice’s terrific score, Jesus Christ Superstar. Randy Schmeling as Judas comes out strong, the rocker, questioning, rebelling, loving and despising, and finally betraying his friend. Jesse Nager is a beautiful Jesus, with a voice of operatic power and sweet, clear notes filled with passion. We see in him more of the challenges he faced. He’s worshiped and put on a pedestal by his followers. His gentle hand heals. His wrathful anger puts the greedy in their place. In the eyes of his followers, he can do no wrong. In the eyes of his enemies, everything he does is a threat. 

Review of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ordway in St. Paul, MN

Jesse Nager (center) and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar (Photo by Rich Ryan)

The picture above looks like a painting, but it’s a photo from the current production at the Ordway. Many times, the actors, set, lighting, and staging looked like the illustrated Bible coming to life. Then, there were times when the styles of the 1970’s glinted off the stage in their psychedelic bling. King Herod is played a female, Erin Schwab, who rocks her solo in the second act. The dance moves are flashy and energetic. (My teenage boys thought this part was a little weird. I reminded them that the show was originally produced in the 1970’s, where sometimes things were a little far out.)

Review of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ordway in St. Paul, MN

Erin Schwab (center as King Herod) and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar (Photo by Rich Ryan)

Webber was only 20, and Rice was 25 when they produced the rock opera album Jesus Christ Superstar. The stage production happened later. They received much criticism for their portrayal of Jesus as being like a rock star, his relationship with Mary Magdalene, and an ending that didn’t tell the complete story of His death and resurrection. A friend of mine was in a Broadway touring production of the show in the 1970’s and said that they had police escorts in some cities because of the protests about this show. In their production, the final scene is where Jesus is carried off from the cross by the disciples. This production has a wonderful final scene that combines the Crucifixion with the ascension. I sat in awe from the start to finish. When Jesse Nager sang Jesus’ song Gethsemane, the crowd went wild. I thought he might get a standing ovation right in the middle of the show. The vocals that leave you weak in the knees, then bring you to your feet for the ovation come from Nager, Schmeling, James Ramlet’s deep bass, Lauren Villegas as Mary Magdalene, in a beautiful, lyrical voice, singing I don’t know how to love Him, Dieter Bierbrauer as Pontius Pilate, the entire ensemble executing each note and dance move with energy and strength.

Review of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Ordway in St. Paul, MN

Dieter Bierbrauer and Jesse Nager Jesse Nager in Jesus Christ Superstar (Photo by Rich Ryan)

This entire production is stunning from the set, that fits together like puzzle pieces, to the costumes, lighting, and fantastic pit orchestra, conducted by Andrew Bourgoin. The entire audience sat spellbound, and I think I held my breath through most of it, and I’m still thinking about some of the most powerful scenes. 

Jesus Christ Superstar, produced by the Ordway Performing Arts Center, directed by James Rocco, will be playing through July 30, 2017. 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: When have you sat spellbound during a performance?