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Musical takes stage: Final week of Christ's life Tell North Platte what you think
Photo by George Lauby
Pilate and Jesus, after the scourging
Photo by George Lauby
Before Pilate
Photo by George Lauby
Tom Clements as Herod
Photo by George Lauby
Photo by George Lauby
A sample of the cast

Jesus Christ Superstar, a "rock opera" and dramatized version of the last seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, continues on the stage this weekend.

The highly acclaimed musical opened downtown at the Neville Center for Performing Arts last weekend and continues this weekend -- Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The show begins with preparations for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and concludes with Christ's suffering and crucifixion. This synthesis of the passion of Christ has played to world-wide audiences in thousands of theaters since it debuted on Broadway in 1971.

The North Platte production is an inspiring show by an inspired group of community actors and musicians. The acting, music, lighting and costumes are excellent on the Neville Center stage. The play presents a wide range of deep emotional experiences, from exuberance to sorrow.Audiences who see this show will be glad they did. 

The story is told from the point of view of Judas, Christ’s apostle who shows his concern, if not his jealously, at the outset, when the character of Judas cautions Jesus, singing, “You've started to believe the things they say of you/ You really do believe this talk of God is true/ And all the good you've done will soon get swept away/ You've begun to matter more than the things you say.”

Jesus lets humility answer and his transcendent actions intrigue and impress the audience to care more deeply. 

In addition to the title song, “Superstar,” the well-known score includes the popping song, “What’s the Buzz” by the disciples and the heart-rending “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” sung by Mary Magdeline, played by Ashley Aloi.

This is the first time director Lori Evans has worked with the show. Four days before opening night, she said the actors and musicians were stepping up.

Evans also understands that the show can generate controversy and skepticism among Biblical believers, but she thinks the play's perspective ties the Gospel to today.

“It’s a story everyone knows,” Evans said, “but it’s told from a different perspective,  set to rock music and contemporary language, so that’s a major difference. Herod taunts Jesus to 'walk across my swimming pool' instead of  to 'walk on water.' We are more apt to see the characters as flesh and blood people with real emotions. To me, that makes it great. The audience can identify with the characters and feel what they may have felt 2,000 years ago.”

This reviewer found the final scenes riveting and moving, as Jesus is led before Pilate, who yields to the cries to "Crucify him" from the crowd. Pilate then oversees a scourging, counting each of 39 lashes across Christ’s bare back.

As usual, actor Tom Clements shines on the playhouse stage, this time portraying the mocking King Herod.

The music was produced and released in 1968.

Musical director Glenn Van Velson said the complex music is one of the most challenging things he’s done in a lifetime hobby career with the playhouse, the Sandhills symphony and the Heartland Singers.

“There is lots of music -- different styles; different time signatures -- toe-tappers, sweet beautiful ballads, and scary and dark songs. I appreciate the opportunity to direct it.”

The musicians, which include Rob Kittle on drums and Virgil French and Vickie Windham on woodwinds, to mention just a few members of an outstanding orchestra, do a professional job.

Jesus Christ Superstar ran for 720 consecutive performances on Broadway. Andrew Lloyd Webber won the Drama Desk Award as Most Promising Composer in 1972.

Less than 12 months after the Broadway show opened, the rock show came to London, exploding in a hugely successful production.

In London that year, symphony composer Dmitri Shostakovich asked to see a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was so impressed that he went back the following night to see it again.

By 1980, after 3,358 performances, the show became the longest running musical in London’s West End history at the time.
Two decades later, Jesus Christ Superstar received a blessing from the Vatican. Songs from the show were performed in front of Pope John Paul II in Rome in May 2000.

The North Platte Community Playhouse is excited to share this work of art with central Nebraska, playhouse manager Scott Carlson said.

The show opened on Feb. 8 and 9 and continues this weekend, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m., and the Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the NPCP office from noon-5 p.m. on Monday-Friday, or online at www.northplattecommunityplayhouse.com or at the door before each performance.

Admission is $15 for adults and $8 for children and students.

The cast: Judas - Mark Cullinan; Jesus- Mike Crom; Mary Magdalene - Ashley Aloi; Peter - Brad Godfrey; Annas - Matt Pederson; Caiaphas - Andrew Lee; Priest - Malachi Murtaugh; Pilate - Jim Shreck; Herod - Tom Clements.

The men’s chorus is comprised of Sam Fornander, Jared Gafke, Philip Ryan, Wayne Stafford and Seth Vapenik.

The women’s chorus is comprised of Suzanne Deardoff, Britnee Fear, Peggy Fox, Sue McKain, Traci Sawyer, Traci Shavlik, Bea Webster and Tiffany Wood.

Jesus Christ Superstar is the third production of the 2013-14 North Platte community playhouse season. The final production will be the musical, Annie. This show is produced through a special arrangement with Rodgers and Hammerstein, Inc. and made possible in part by the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment of the Arts.

This review was first published in the Bulletin's Feb. 5 print edition. A brief advance report on the show was published online Feb. 3, prompting 37 talkbacks, published below. -Editor

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 2/11/2014
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