I had never seen any production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I had heard some music from cast recordings and I didn’t care for it. Too fake-rocky or something. So going into the theatre to see the Confederation Centre of the Arts Charlottetown Festival production of JCS, I was prepared to not be impressed.
From the first note from the orchestra - which was amazing and brilliant and tight (and totally rocked when it was called for) - to the wonderful use of the beautiful set, to the last fade out from the exquisite lighting design, I was absolutely, totally, entirely transfixed and hooked and absorbed. I was surprised by how much I loved this production.
Seriously, it is the most impressive piece of theatre I’ve ever seen. (And I’ve seen the Star Trek episode snippet from Raised on TV 2!!)
I cannot imagine the cast performing any better than they did. I was wondering whether the Wednesday night performance I saw was one they high-fived themselves for afterwards, or was it simply run of the mill for them. At absolutely every moment, everyone on stage, absolutely everyone, seemed to be one-hundred percent invested in what they were doing, totally committed to what they were doing in each and every moment. I kept watching the players in the ensemble, amazed at how “into it” they constantly were. When performers who are playing characters who may not have names are busting their asses so hard and adding so much to every scene they are in, well I truly appreciated that.
Lee Siegel as Judas was the first to knock my socks off. (At the beginning of the show, I was wearing maybe two dozen pairs of socks in my sandals, and by the end I was barefoot). First of all, his voice is beyond incredible. My words cannot do it justice. His personality on stage is magnetic, you are drawn to him. He is a fierce performer. So impressed.
Aaron Hastelow as Jesus Christ is terrific. Again, what a voice! There are a few times when he reaches notes that must be at the extreme end of his upper range, and I got goosebumps. He was great throughout but really shone during the second act. I can’t believe I’m about to write this, but in this performance as Jesus Christ, Aaron Hastelow absolutely nails it.
Greg Gale as Caiaphas has an impressively booming bass voice, perfectly suited for the character, whose domineering presence is supremely enhanced by costuming. He was my wife’s favourite. One of my problems with genres like rock opera is that sometimes people have to sing lines that just don’t sound like they should be sung. Lines of dialogue that don’t scan into any musical rhyme scheme, but nonetheless must be sung. His character, I think, perhaps has the most lines like that, and he does an excellent job with them.
Brendan Wall as Pontius Pilate was great, and every line and movement from him hinted to me at some sort of mischievous backstory for the character. That Pilate guy has a lot going on, I’m guessing, and I appreciate Brendan’s talents to make me wonder more about the character (as portrayed by him). That he looks a bit like Morrissey only adds to the character’s mystery.
Cameron MacDuffee as King Herod - and his accompanying posse - is wonderful and fun as the show takes a bit of a left turn into burlesque and comedy. A friend of mine said they wished this portion of the show could be performed twice in a row so they could catch all the wonderful action that is going on, and I agree.
Hailey Gillis has some really lovely moments as Mary Magdalene, especially when alone with JC.
(The female voice is vastly under-represented in this show, but that’s the problem when history is written by men. Kudos to the casting for finding ways to bring women into more roles than the writers - or history - probably intended.)
I cannot stress enough how wonderful absolutely everyone in the cast were in the performance I saw. Honestly, I cannot imagine the production being performed any better than what I saw.
Which brings me to its director, Adam Brazier. This guy! I don’t know how he does it. He seems so casual and relaxed when I speak with him. Then he turns around and creates another production that blows me away with artistry, beauty, emotion and power. We really do have someone special in our midst here, and I am humbled by his artistry.
This production raises the bar on what we should expect from the Charlottetown Festival going forward.
I know PEI doesn’t have any awards for theatre, but if we did, what Adam Brazier and all the creatives involved in putting this show together would easily win all the awards.
Except for the Top Pop Award for Improv - that would go to someone from the Popalopalots - not me though, I never with Top Pop.