The Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar doesn’t offer anything particularly new and interesting, but gives audiences a slightly new twist on the Rice and Lloyd Webber classic. Having walked into the LOT for the fourth time to see a musical for the first, I left without being particularly enthralled, though I was satisfied knowing with full confidence that the performances I had been presented with had definitely been well rehearsed with a cast of extremely versatile vocalists.
The show began with the obvious villain of the story, Judas Iscariot (Luiz Monterei), punching the audience straight in the face with his powerful opening number “Heaven on Their Minds.” Monterei’s performance was most definitely a powerful display of rock-driven vocals, though throughout the performance I had some issues understanding what it was that he was saying, due to lack of articulation. The most powerful performance, in my opinion, was that of Pontius Pilate (played by Ephraim Ellis). He delivered a vicious introduction with a menacing baritone jackhammer of a voice. His lack of pity and intimidating demeanour made for an unforgiving character that, even whilst trying to save Jesus from crucifixion, managed to cut through my heart like a knife.
Erik Kopacsi’s portrayal of Jesus was definitely an interesting one, as his character did not manage to grab hold of me until at least the second act. I say interesting because it seemed as though his pop icon status later coincided with his more humanized character in the second act, leading up to his crucifixion. The continual over-the-top vibe of the show in contrast to the subject matter keeps us fairly alienated in the second act, evoking more sympathy for the title character. This most definitely offered a very Brechtian approach to the original scripture, which in turn did justice to the classic in a fairly intimate space.
The most interesting aspect of the show was the use of projections as a reflection of social buzz and overall setting changes. Throughout the first half of the show, as the music progressed, animated projections of Jesus as a pop culture icon began flashing on screen in the form of newspaper articles. Animated rhythmically with the overture, the projections worked almost like an equalizer for the music, successfully capturing the over-the-top vibe of the show from the beginning. In addition to this, the projections effectively displayed different settings throughout show. A prison cell, being one of their many scene settings, depicted bars projected at the very top of the screen to create the illusion that they were much higher than the screen actually was. This created an overwhelming sense of intimidation in the face of the setting itself, being the prison that Jesus is locked up in before his crucifixion.
All in all, Lower Ossington Theatre’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar offered some interesting ideas, though created nothing too spectacular. The projections implemented some new and iconic changes, though the fight choreography seemed far too rehearsed. In the future, it would be interesting to see the LOT take a slightly larger step towards innovation, as the new ideas that they had implemented were definitely effective in delivering a new perspective on this classic biblical Brecht bender.
Jesus Christ Superstar plays at the Lower Ossington Theatre until Jan. 24. For tickets and more information, visit http://lowerossingtontheatre.com/.
photo credit: Seanna Kennedy