PARAMOUNT THEATER PRESENTS
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
DIRECTED BY RON KELLUM
NOW PLAYING –
April 19 – MAY 28, 2017
“Jesus Christ Superstar,” directed by Andrew Lloyd Webber with lyrics by Tim Rice, made its Broadway debut 46 years ago and mesmerized audiences. This 1971 rock opera transformed the stage into a global phenomenon.
Fast forward to the Millennium and this iconic piece of musical theatre is still riveting and it continues to mesmerize audiences alike with a twist of powerful and soul-stirring songs.
So what is this play called “Jesus Christ Superstar” and what is all of the hype about?
Well… here’s a refresher. Jesus Christ Superstar recounts the last days of Jesus on earth (played by Evan Tyrone Martin) from the perspective of Judas Iscariot (Mykal Kilgore), his betrayer. As Jesus’ fan base increases, Judas begins to worry that Jesus is falling for his own hype, forgetting the principles of his teachings and growing too close to the prostitute Mary Magdalene (Felicia Boswell). After Jesus has an outburst in a temple, Judas turns on him.
Now the hype about this great production of Jesus Christ Superstar at Paramount Theater is all in the directing and casting of the crew. Ron Kellum, who makes his Paramount debut as Director of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, is a nationally known choreographer and live spectacular specialist who happens to be African American, and he directs a cast of 26 African American actors and actresses who simply wow the audiences.
Kellum says, “This is not a gospel version, nor is it hip-hop. It’s just performed with an all-Black cast and it is told through the narrative of Judas. How we move, how we sing — our influences were more opera, rhythm and blues or rock ‘n’ roll. It’s all going to happen organically.”
Ron chose actors whose performances can take you to another level of fiery splendor. The musical is therapeutically sung throughout the play with no spoken dialogue; the singing voices can easily rival any Broadway singers.
Two of those stellar voices included the extraordinary Mykal Kilgore, who portrayed Judas Iscariot and opened up the play with an effortless version of “Heaven on Their Minds,” and the lovely Felicia Boswell, who sung “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.”
Although Jesus Christ Superstar has inspired many over the four decades since its debut back in the 70’s from adoration and controversy to parody and mockery, Director Ron Kellum’s delivery was loosely based on the Gospels’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’s life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with Jesus ascending into heaven.
It also highlights political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene. Superficially at least, Jesus Christ Superstar contains many elements of the biblical narrative however; Rick’s literary biblical knowledge wishes this rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar would have stayed closer to the actual story.
Evan Tyrone Martin who is featured as Jesus of Nazareth is a good actor, however I wished I could have heard more of his range of singing. We also noticed that the poor acoustics at the Paramount could have played a part. From the aftermath of the play, one can definitely see how it portrays Jesus grappling with His mortality when it came to His relationship and friendship with Judas and Mary Magdalene.
Now this is when things can either go too far to the right or too far to the left because when you’re talking about Jesus Christ, it’s very risky if you stray from the biblical aspect of His being. However, Director Kellum seemed to have provided us with a noteworthy performance with its fascinating and magnetic storytelling of Jesus Christ, the man of good intentions that through the eyes of Judas let things get out of control by focusing too much on his fame.
Kellum showed us how popularity can deceive and corrupt and he handled this larger than life play delicately with the help of the awe-inspiring cast singing acapella versions of the songs.
From the very first note to the last, the gospel-like infused songs which included the one and only “Jesus Christ Superstar,” one can only clap, sing along and be joyously happy with this musical utopia of theater!
Throughout this incredible retelling of one of the greatest stories played out on stage, we heard boisterous voices like angels singing, which made this iconic piece of musical theater go down in history as a first “Jesus Christ Superstar” in the United States on this scale with an all African- American cast!
So if you’re ready and do not mind taking a trip outside the limits of Chicago to see the musical of all musicals, “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Paramount Theater in Aurora, you will definitely be in for a treat full of dynamic, thrilling, spell bounding singing with a message of love.
The Cast includes:
(JESUS OF NAZARETH) Evan Tyrone Martin
(JUDAS ISCARIOT) Mykal Kilgore
(MARY MAGDALENE) Felicia Boswell
(PONTIUS PILATE) Rufus Bonds Jr.
(KING HEROD) Avionce Hoyles
(CAIAOHAS) Lorenzo Rush Jr.
(ANNAS) Avionce Hoyles
(SIMON ZEALOTES) Mark J. P. Hood
(PETER) Gilbert Domally
(SOUL GIRLS) Reneisha Jenkins, Renelle Nicole, Kafi Pierre
(APOSTLES/DISCIPLES/ENSEMBLE) Stephen “Blu” Allen, Jaren D. M. Grant, Gabriel Mudd
(Priests) Stephen “Blu” Allen, Jos N. Banks, Ciera Dawn, Gilbert Domally, Candace C. Edwards, Jaren D. M. Grant, Keirsten Hodgens, Reneisha Jenkins, Michael Lovette, Gabriel Mudd, Brian Nelson, Jr., Renelle Nicole, Jaymes Osborne, Jon Pierce, Kafi Pierre, Travis Porchia, Camille Robinson, Alexis J. Roston, Jessica Brooke Seals
We give this play 4 stars.
Rev. Rick & Brenda McCain are the hosts of “Let’s Stay Together Talk!”