Following sold out engagements in the UK, critically acclaimed Jesus Christ Superstar (JCSS) is now playing at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theater (151 West Randolph Street).
Aaron LaVigne leads the show as Jesus, joined by Jenna Rubaii as Mary and Omar Lopez-Cepero as Judas. The tour also features Alvin Crawford as Caiphas, Timmy Sherlock as Pilate and Tyce Green as Annas. Pepe Nufrio returns to the cast as standby for Jesus and Judas.
The ensemble includes David Andre, Courtney Arango, Guiliana Augello, Wesley J. Barnes, Lydia Ruth Dawson, Hope Easterbrook, Derek Ferguson, Brian Golub, Brittany Rose Hammond, Garfield Hammonds, Quiana Holmes, Darrel T. Joe, Sheila Jones, Jacob Lacopo, Paul Louis Lessard, Eric E. Lewis, Tommy McDowell, Danny McHugh, Jenny Mollet, Sarah Parker, Erick Patrick, Sandy Redd and Cooper Stanton.
What makes this tour so special is that it is the 50th anniversary of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s controversial, yet iconic and timeless rock opera that focuses on the retelling of Christ’s last days and crucifixion.
Being a singer and musical theater buff, I was super excited to attend opening night for this amazing musical. I’ve seen it onstage twice before and was intrigued for yet another stage adaptation.
This version of JCSS was quite the journey to experience, while having both strengths and challenges on the whole scale. My guest and I noticed right away during the production that it was the supporting ensemble, versus the main leads, that carried the show. There was such an amazing grand scale of diverse talent that you (the audience) want to connect to the story, characters and music.
Exceptional standouts for me personally were Rubaii (Mary), Lopez-Cepero (Judas), Crawford (Caiphas), Lessard (Herod), Lewis (Simon) and Sherlock (Pilate). It’s unfortunate that the character of Jesus (whose story is the main focal point of JCSS) had promise, but the performer himself could have been stronger. His portrayal of Jesus was stiff and lacked emotion or believability. Overall, the cast and band as a whole deliver amazing, high energy performances.
Other stars of the show were the band themselves, a powerhouse of musical performers and instruments who rocked their parts for 90 minutes straight. The instrumental accompaniment truly provided substantial ambience throughout the entire show, as well as including impressive guitar and sax solos.
Other high praises go out to the lighting and stage design (the grand centerpiece was a huge cross which served as a platform for dancing and the sire of the lady supper with creative use of a two level built set), the costumes (fantastic athletic street clothes that resembled how contemporary, yet timeless the story is) and the choreography and movement of the ensemble. One frustrating aspect was the amazing band’s music often drained out the singers and it was difficult at times to understand their lyrics.
Though this production wasn’t perfect in all aspects, the overall performance was wonderful to experience, and reminded me why I enjoy this musical so much. It is a story about simply being human, about love and relationships, about trust and betrayal, about fate and destiny. It is a story that continues to emotionally connect and relate to the audience-and, I believe it will continue to endure. See it and enjoy!
Photos by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman
Playing now through July 31, 2022
For tickets or more information, please visit the Broadway in Chicago website.