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Calendar >  Moonlight Stage Productions Presents a Super Superb 2023 Opening with “Jesus Christ Superstar”

Moonlight Stage Productions Presents a Super Superb 2023 Opening with “Jesus Christ Superstar”

By   /  May 11, 2023  /  1 Comment

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TR Robertson –Moonlight’s Producing Artistic Director and Director of the opening musical for Moonlight Stage Production, Steven Glaudini, and his creative staff are to be congratulated for choosing the classic rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” to begin the 42nd season, along with an incredibly talented group of performers who made opening night a tremendous success. Wonderful voices, memorable songs, great choreography, an unforgettable story and an impressive set design for the Moonlight Stage all blended together to delight those seeing the rock opera once again and for those seeing it for the first time. This classic musical is now in its 53rd year of being produced in theaters all around the United States and beyond.

“Jesus Christ Superstar”, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lyrics by Tim Rice, had a slightly shaky beginning, first being produced as a concept album before appearing on stage. It would become their third musical following “The Likes of Us” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.  The album would top U.S. Billboard Top LP’s chart in 1971 and end the year as the number one album. “Jesus Crist Superstar” would appear on Broadway in 1971 at the Mark Hellinger Theatre. The rock opera was nominated for five Tony Awards in 1972 and Andrew Lloyd Webber won a Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Composer.  It was made into a movie in 1973. , starring Ted Neeley. After the Emmy Award for Rice and Webber for the 2018 NBC live production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, they are now the proud owners of an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony for many of the musicals they have collaborated on.

Photos by Karli Cadel and Fred Tracey

The rock opera presents Jesus with a more human presentation, as a man who goes through many of the personal trials and tribulations we all go through. It also centers on Judas Iscariot and his relationship with Jesus. Judas feels that followers of Jesus are out of control, and he is dissatisfied with the direction Jesus is steering his disciples. Judas also feels they are seen as a threat to the Roman Empire and he is not happy with Jesus’s growing relationship with Mary Magdalene. The story covers the last days of Jesus, his entry into Jerusalem, the chaos in the Temple, the Last Supper, his betrayal by Judas and his trial and crucifixion.

When the rock opera was initially produced, various religious groups attacked the musical saying it showed Judas in a more sympathetic light, that it made the Jews too complicit in sentencing Jesus and ignored the resurrection of Jesus. Some of the groups even felt it showed Jesus as too human. There were even others who complained about the depiction of a romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene was not necessary. Over time, most of these “controversies” have disappeared from the conversation and the majority of people today simply see the rock opera as a thought provoking, moving portrayal of the agony of Jesus in his last days on this earth. It is almost as thou it is seen as a Christian Passion Play from long ago. One thing is definitely true. The music is moving, memorable, powerful, intense and stands by itself as some of the most outstanding music ever written for a musical.

It is hard to pinpoint a stand-out performer for this Moonlight Production as each of the leads and the ensemble is absolutely amazing. Beautiful voices, tremendous range, great presentations of the personalities they are portraying, and great timing all make this one of the best performances on the Moonlight Stage I have had the pleasure of seeing or reviewing. Richard Bermudez, playing Jesus, presents him both as a tender and passionate person who is conflicted with his task on this earth. Brian Justin Crum plays Judas Iscariot and presents him as a man deep in agony first with his personal feelings about Jesus, then with the horrible decision he made in his betrayal of Jesus. Both of these actors have incredible voices. I don’t think I will ever forget Crum’s “Superstar” number in a flashy red jacket, black leather pants and high heeled boots along with the Soul Sisters.

Playing Mary Magdalene is Monika Pena. Her version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” is soul searching, tender and emotional. Her Mary is also in emotional pain and Pena presents this in a caring way. One other performer the audience will not forget is DeAndre Simmons portrayal of the High Priest Caiaphas. His unbelievably deep, ominous voice brings a bit of fear of the High Priest who wants Jesus crucified. Jeffrey Ricca’s presentation of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judaea, is a standout out with his performances in “Pilate and Christ” and “Trial by Pilate/39 Lashes” and his emotional struggle with sentencing Jesus. One comical moment in this moving rock opera is the performance by Dallas McLaughlin as Herod, the Roman Jewish Client King of Judaea, in “Herod’s Song”, in the catchy up-beat number performed with the Ensemble fitted out in beach wear and Herod resplendent in bright golden fabric. E.Y. Washington, as Simon the Zealot, presented “Simon Zealotes” with great energy joining with the Ensemble in the rousing number.

The thirty-six-member cast brought this rock opera to life again from start to finish. It’s all of the little things that have made this musical a classic for the last 53 years. Like Ernest Alvarez, as a guard, and his dexterity with the whip on stage right as the thirty-nine lashes Pilate sentenced were counted out as they were administered to Jesus, or the Leonardo da Vinci pose on stage of Jesus and the disciples at the Last Supper.

The eleven member “Jesus Christ Superstar” Orchestra, led by Music Director and Conductor Lyndon Pugeda, put out a sound that made it seem as though a thirty-piece orchestra was in the pit. The music for this rock opera is non-stop, not a moment when some type of music is not being played. Much of the music is also very fast paced, making me wonder if the musicians are not exhausted by the end of the performance. The Moonlight sound system is state of the art and perfect to project the energy of this music.

Assisting Director Steven Glaudini is hie Creative Team of Choreographer Jimmy Locust, Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet, Costumer Designer Renetta Lloyd, Lighting Designer Jennifer Edwards, Sound Designer Brandon Boomizad, Projection Designer Blake McCarty, Hair & Wig Designs by Peter Herman, Costume Coordinator Heather Megill, Properties Coordinator Bonnie Durben, Stage Manager Melissa Bonilla, Assistant Stage Manager Kate Thorvick, and Managing Director Mike Bradford. A number of Production and Technical Crew personnel also helped make this performance a standout.

The opening of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, during the Overture, was unique and impressive using a multi-colored backdrop to project a number of words and definitions used to describe Jesus, such as Messiah, Christ, Deliverer. The multi-level staging and movable set of large stairs for the set allowed for a variety of choregraphed performances by the large cast. The final scene of the play will also bring a “wow moment” to you, and if you have seen previous performances, the final moments give the rock opera a Moonlight personal touch different from any of the previous performances I have seen.

This musical gives people a chance to look at your personal faith and how you view the whole story of Jesus, God and the Kingdom of Heaven. For many it might help them as they seek the answer to “Jesus Christ, who are you?” For many it will simply be a great musical to enjoy.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” will be on the Moonlight Stage at Moonlight Amphitheatre until May 27th. Shows are at 8:00 P.M. It does get a little chilly so bring a blanket or dress warmly. There are several additions to Moonlight to go with the Bread & Cheese Eatery. Added is a snack booth selling popcorn and Churro popcorn as well as candy and snacks. Next to this is Handal’s Ice Cream selling four different flavors of their ice cream. Go to www.moonlightstage.com for ticket information and rules and regulations concerning bringing food into the complex. You can also call 760-724-2110 for ticket information.

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1 Comment

  1. m moeller says:

    I agree that the talent was amazing in this productions. I saw the show Thursday the 10th. I found the sound to be painfully loud, though. Some actors were mic’d much louder than others, and the overall sound was often distorted because of the high volume. Apple watch registered 95 decibels, which can cause hearing loss. Too bad because the actors’ voices would have sounded better without the over-amplification. Worth seeing but I wish I had brought ear-plugs.

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