This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

8Apr/12

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR has been resurrected at the Neil Simon Theatre (photo by Joan Marcus)

Neil Simon Theater
250 West 52nd St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Tickets: $79-$142
www.superstaronbroadway.com

Des McAnuff’s revival of Jesus Christ Superstar is a rousing resurrection of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice flower-power rock opera. McAnuff, who cowrote and directed The Who’s Tommy, imbues this Superstar with a keen balance of over-the-top glitz and salt-of-the-earth drama that serves the bumpy musical well, as it’s always been more a series of set pieces than a character-driven narrative. A digital news ticker counts down the days to Passover as Judas (a powerful Josh Young) considers betraying Jesus (a solid if unexceptional Paul Nolan) because he believes that things have gotten way out of control — and he is jealous of his friend and master’s extremely close relationship with Mary Magdalene (an alluring Chilina Kennedy). As the seder/last supper approaches, Caiaphas (the deep-voiced Marcus Nance) and his council plot to arrest Jesus while Pontius Pilate (a regal Tom Hewitt) prepares to wash his hands of it all. Music coordinator John Miller and orchestra conductor Rick Fox don’t mess too much with the music, updating it a bit but primarily letting such familiar songs as “What’s the Buzz,” “Hosanna,” and “Everything’s Alright” stand on their own. Kennedy delivers a beautiful “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” Tony nominee Hewitt (The Rocky Horror Show) nobly talk-sings his way through a brutally violent “Trial by Pilate/39 Lashes,” and Nolan is gloriously lifted to the heavens in “Crucifixion,” but it’s Bruce Dow who steals the show as the wonderfully campy King Herod, his signature song exploding in a bevy of bright lights and kitschy glamour. “So, you are the Christ / You’re the great Jesus Christ,” he declares in the production’s biggest dance number, “Prove to me that you’re no fool / Walk across my swimming pool.” McAnuff and choreographer Lisa Shriver place the action on Robert Brill’s two-story set built around a pair of multipurpose movable metallic bleachers that tend to get overused, with cast members continually climbing up and down, and some of the songs fall flat, but this is still a very welcome return for one of Broadway’s most unusual period pieces.