‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ shines and defines at Paramount Theatre

Of Notoriety

Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s “Jesus Christ Superstar” always attracts stage attention and big names connected with the favorite stage musical which also starred actor Ted Neeley, now 73, in the title role in the 1973 original musical film. Throughout the years, he has also toured with the stage musical as well.

Paramount Theatre‘s new production of this Broadway hit resurrects “Jesus Christ Superstar” like never before.

Playing this month through Sunday, May 28, director and producer Ron Kellum makes his Paramount debut teamed with Paramount veterans Tom Vendafreddo and Kory Danielson collaborating as co-music directors for spectacular stage results.

It was in 2008 when Broadway in Chicago hosted the last national tour of the groundbreaking theatrical masterpiece by legendary writing team Webber and Tim Rice. That visit starred Neeley once again under the halo. (When he first played the role on Broadway, it was originally as an understudy in 1971 when he was first cast as Judas, the role which eventually became most associated with actor Carl Anderson.)

Set in two acts, “Jesus Christ Superstar” tells the story of the final seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and dramatizes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the unrest caused by his preaching and his popularity, his betrayal by Judas, the trial before Pontius Pilate, and his ultimate crucifixion.

The Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, provides the perfect landscape for this just more than two-hour, one intermission immersion of song, spirit and undeniable assembled talent bringing audiences the incredible scenes paired with songs like “Everything’s Alright,” “Heaven on Their Minds,” “Hosanna,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Superstar.”

Paramount’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” stars an all-black cast led by Evan Tyrone Martin in the title role, following up his holiday performance run as the booming voice of King Triton in Paramount’s run of “The Little Mermaid.” Martin strikes the perfect balance as a figure who is both torn and triumphant, with a rich performance that is unmistakable.

He is opposite Mykal Kilgore as Judas Iscariot, who commands his every scene and moment on stage in what is certainly the most key and difficult role to navigate in this stage story. Felicia Boswell earns her every bow for a beautiful and vulnerable turn as Mary Magdalene and Rufus Bonds, Jr. as Pontius Pilate and Avionce Hoyles in dual duty as King Herod and Annas are superb as the counter characters in the musical. Lorenzo Rush Jr. delivers what are some of the most haunting tones in sung dialogue as high priest Caiaphas.

Completing the more than two dozen talents in this large cast are Stephen “Blu” Allen, Jos N. Banks, Ciera Dawn, Gilbert Domally, Candace C. Edwards, Jared D.M. Grant, Keirsten Hodgens, Mark J.P. Hood, Reneisha Jenkins, Micheal Lovette, Gabriel Mudd, Brian Nelson Jr., Renellè Nicole, Jaymes Osborne, Kafi Pierre, Jon Pierce, Travis Porchia, Camille Robinson, Alexis J. Roston and Jessica Brooke Seals.

Backed by a 14-piece live rock band, the production design team includes Kevin Depinet‘s grand set design; Theresa Ham‘s costume design; Greg Hofmann‘s lighting design; Mike Tutaj‘s projection design and Adam Rosenthal‘s sound design.

Paramount’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a biblical box office sensation that is easy to praise.

Performances are 1:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays at 8 p.m., 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $44 to $59. FYI: (630) 896-6666 or www.ParamountAurora.com Note: “Jesus Christ Superstar” is rated PG.

Philip Potempa is a veteran journalist and published author. He can be reached philip@ofnotoriety.com.