FCP Brings Challenging “Jesus Christ Superstar” to Bower Stage

Reviewed by Kathleen Kirby

A healthy crowd greeted Thursday’s opening performance of Flint Community Players’ end of the season production, Jesus Christ Superstar. This Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical proved a bit challenging, but they still managed to put it across nicely.

With an eight piece orchestra onstage and a framework set of stairs and platforms, this story of the last seven days in the life of Christ played out smoothly.  Director Steven J. Mokofsky utilized the myriad arrangements available on his set to depict everything from Gethsemane to the Sanhedrin and finally Golgotha without adding extra set pieces.  Lighting, costumes and sound effects added much to the overall impression.

Most are familiar with this story and with the main characters involved.  The immediate introduction of Judas (Jason Alan Briggs) seemed to set the character up as a dissenter unhappy with the crowd and with Jesus’ handling of their adulation.  Briggs’ “Heaven On Their Minds” was performed with an intensity that left him overreaching for the rest of the show.

Jon Kelley’s Jesus failed to exude the charisma that would motivate the apparent adoration of the crowd.  Rather, he ranged from faint-hearted to frantic, often screeching on vocals that seemed to be rarely in his range which was quite nice when it did emerge.

There were some great moments in this show supported first by Yvonne Miller as Mary Magdalene.  Her voice was sweetly plaintive especially singing the lovely “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”.  Her duet, “Could We Start Again, Please” with Peter (Shelly Nicolai) was nicely done but intriguing given the female portrayal of Peter.

A true highlight came with the riotous “King Herod’s Song” sung with panache and style by Herod (Kevin A. Starnes) and the Heretics. This upbeat and kooky song and dance had Thursday’s audience roaring appreciatively.

Vic Tatum’s amazing bass voice brought emotion and presence to the role of Caiaphas, a Sanhedrin judge.  He definitely set the tone for that ruling body.

Others of note included Jesse Glenn as Pilate who managed to easily communicate the difficulty of the man’s decision to condemn Jesus.  His closing pose at the end of the show spoke volumes about the role of government versus the individual.

Other moments worthy of mention include “The Temple” that found black robed lepers almost menacingly crowding around Jesus, “Superstar” highlighted by the flashy Soul Girls, plus the multimedia end of the first act with Judas framed by flames as the chant-like “Blood Money” was sung.  In addition to directing this time we need to commend Mokofsky’s skill on the drums. This show found him serving as the onstage percussionist.

Finally, as everyone knows, this story ends badly.  The depiction of crucifixion here is quite graphic and may evoke strong emotion. Overall, this is a strong story worth seeing.

Jesus Christ Superstar continues at The F.A. Bower Theater through May 15. For more information contact FCP at 810-235-6963 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com.  For tickets call The Whiting Ticket Center at 810-237-7333 or www.thewhiting.com.

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