Upon first entering the Blackbox, the first word that comes to mind is “glitter.” The stage is set with gloriously shiny glitter fabric, worthy of only the most flamboyant 1970’s pop stars, with three large and rather impressive crosses on each section of the stage. It’s like walking into a religious discotheque, as oxymoronic as that may sound.
On Nov. 14, “Jesus Christ Superstar” debuted onstage in the Blackbox Theatre. Coordinated by student director Amanda Mihalke ’15, the cast featured 20 cast members and six tech workers.
As I sat in the back row of the theater and watched both students and teachers file in, I was struck by the excitement that fueled the audience. Everyone was laughing and talking and a few teachers (I’m looking at you, Dr. Yoshimura) were even dancing to the classic 1970’s music that was playing in the background. Indeed, we were being prepared for a production.
The official synopsis of the show, according to the program, read: “Jesus Christ Superstar is loosely based on the Gospel’s account of the last week of Jesus’ life, beginning with the preparation for the the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion.”
Hollis Dohr ’17, Stella Gage ’17, and Olivia Bagg ’15 all portrayed their characters magnificently, bringing their own subtle touches to each character to make them their own. Dohr’s voice brought an almost blues-y feel to the character of Jesus, one fraught with inner turmoil and desire to do the right thing.
Gage made Mary’s character dynamic and interesting, and her devotion to Jesus was made clear through a sultry, Amy Winehouse-esque solo towards the end of Act I. Bagg brought something entirely different to Judas, a devotion to Jesus not entirely different to that of Mary’s, and a masterfully played tension between the two.
The cast also included some new, impressive talent, including Maya Winkler ’18 as Caiaphas, the Disney-villain-like leader of the priests, as well as Billie Wakeham ’17 and Alex Sherman ’17 as Pilate and King Herod, respectively. All the members of the ensemble also gave knock-out performances, with strong vocals that did nothing but better the production.
The show is nothing if not emotionally draining; I found myself leaving the theater with a sense of fatigue that comes with every successful production. From Judas’ suicide to Pilate flogging Jesus 39 times (yes, 39) to Jesus’ actual death, “Jesus Christ Superstar” is filled to the brim with horrifyingly grotesque yet accurate depictions of unsavory actions.
The production did a particularly impressive job with the lighting, with lighting cues masterfully matching up with the most poignant moments of the show. The makeup helped solidify the “superstar” aspect of the show, with colorful makeup everywhere, that, with the set, worked well to create a disco-Jesus vibe (which I don’t believe existed until now).
Overall, the show was extremely well done. Everything from the actors, lighting, makeup, and plot brought a new an unique flair to an age-old tale.
Indeed, “Jesus Christ Superstar” was truly a superstar production.