It’s not every day you see Jesus in skinny jeans, but director Luke Brown brought exactly that to Hart House with his rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Having dazzled audiences on Broadway for years, the musical was sure to be a hit at Hart House. I myself was expecting to be blown away by miraculous performances. Which, for the most part, I was.
David Michael Moote stars as Christ and from the moment he opened his mouth, he silenced the crowd. With easily one of the strongest voices in the entire cast, Moote nailed his songs with a clear, smooth, and beautiful voice. I will admit, though, that there were times Moote couldn’t quite nail the Steven Tyler-esque high notes mid-song; his voice cracked a few times during his performance.
Aaron Williams may be Judas when he acts, but he’s an angel when he sings. He was incredible from start to finish. What was particularly lovely for me was how well Williams merged acting with song; when he was supposed to be sad or angry he naturally incorporated that into his songs, making for one hell of a performance.
The quality was maintained by Claire Hunter, who played Mary. Not much else can said about her other than that she was the calm in the eye of the storm. With so many loud, emotional rock songs, Hunter really balanced things out with her softer songs that allowed her to show off her talent.
Now, three side performances I feel obligated to mention are Simon (Harold Lumilan), Annas (Matt Gallagher), and King Herod (Saphire Demitro). These three were breathtaking. Lumilan had no problems hitting the long high notes and Gallagher had a beautiful strong voice that he used with ease.
Enter Demitro: the sassy yet adorable queen that owned the stage for her one song. She earned as much applause after her one song as the entire cast did during final bow.
Now, being opening night, the play certainly struggled with some things. First, the lighting was atrocious. Spotlights shone in front of actors and doorways, not on them, keeping the main focus of the scene in the dark. The spotlight also visibly struggled to line up with actors several times. At one point, the lights went off altogether while Hunter was in the middle of a song.
A few other technical difficulties presented themselves as well. The microphones had feedback or were scratchy as the actors sang, taking away from their performances. When the show first started, Williams’s microphone was so loud that his high notes thundered in my ears. In comparison to the others, whose microphones were not turned up that high, Williams was painfully loud.
The ensemble was full of terrific singers, but as a group they didn’t flow well. Their voices clashed with one another and the choreography only drew more attention to how uncoordinated they were. Their energy also didn’t fit well because some of them were more energetic and eccentric than the others.
But the play was worth a watch. It was fun, exciting, and full of wonderful performers. Quite a blast.