Theater Review: Jesus Christ Superstar opens at Guilford High

The culmination of months of preparation, an opening represents the epitome of a collaborative effort. This is especially true of Jesus Christ Superstar. Director Leslie Biesbrouck’s determination to mount a controversial production has resulted in a stunning show. Every aspect from cast, orchestra, chorus, set, lighting and costumes is absolutely professional.

Kevin White is Jesus. His emotional performance and thrillingly beautiful voice centers the play. The ramp leading from the stage to the rear of the auditorium brings him to the audience, and the agonizing lyrics sung almost in a falsetto reveals his pain. Michelle Whalen as Mary equals White in her passion. The operatic score of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music challenges the most experienced singers. These young people more than meet that challenge.

With Kyle Adams as Judas, Matt Jones as Caiaphas, and Bonnie Grant as Annas, we see a group directed well, knowing their music and space. Tim Castree is Pontius Pilate, representing the strength of the production. Parents Kathy and Jerry Stevens are also on stage as part of the chorus. Teachers and parents have been an integral part of Jesus Christ Superstar. Staff member Rick Durango in a bright “Zoot Suit” plays Herod, surrounded by his court of dancing girls.

George Harnish of the Kappa program at Auburn High has constructed a set incorporating wood, stone, marble and brass doors. The simulations represent the architecture of the era, and the multiple levels bring an energetic sense of movement. Lon Hoeberg handles lighting, and Thom Davis designed the costumes. The orchestra, directed by Rick Nolting, consists of strings, brass, and woodwinds, while the rock section, led by Greg Gyllsdorf on keyboard, supports the intensity of Webber’s music with bass, percussion, drums and an extensive collection of chimes. Many of the students began their musical training in middle school, and their years of experience are evident.

Choreographed beautifully, the movement enhances the music and the story line. The fight scenes also work well. Theater involves words, music and movement, and they all combine to give the audience a visual and auditory experience.

Jesus Christ Superstar, the story of the last days of Christ, intensifies many feelings. We know the story so well. The lashes in the final scenes, much less graphic than in Mel Gibson’s Passion, remind us that, like Herod, we all have blood on our hands when unjustified torture takes place. As Christ carries His cross through the audience, we are witness to His sacrifice, and as He lies dying with the grieving Mary, there is no grand finale.

Opening Wednesday, April 13 at 7 p.m. at Guilford High School, Jesus Christ Superstar will also be performed Thursday, April 13, at 7 p.m.; Friday, April 15 at 7 p.m.; and Saturday, April 16 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 and may be obtained by calling (815) 654-4870.

Following the creation of the production has been especially rewarding for me. I congratulate all those whose energy and talent have contributed to a wonderful theatrical experience.

From the April 13-19, 2005, issue

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