Powerful music, powerful imagery and powerful performances make Alpha Omega Players’ current production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” one of the most dynamic of this theater season.
Some of the area’s most talented vocalists deliver the incredible music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice and bring to life the key players in the Gospels.
Set in Jerusalem during the final 10 days of Jesus’ life, it plays out the familiar stories from the Bible, but also adds some dramatic scenes about the relationship between Jesus and Judas that add tension and poignancy to this already poignant story.
And it is those scenes that give this production its sense of reality. Jesus and Judas are shown as men who experience the complete range of human emotions — love, fear, compassion, and anger. This is no sugar-coated version of Christianity’s most revered moments — from Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem to his crucifixion. It is raw and emotional, reflecting the joy, confusion, guilt and despair of those involved.
The intimate setting of the playhouse, with actors sometimes mere inches away from the audience, calls for 100% focus. It is a challenging show in a challenging venue and the cast more than met that challenge.
The tension and intensity is palpable between Kyle Monaghan as Jesus and Corey Buller as Judas.
Monahan’s Jesus goes from being tender and caring to angry with equal skill. His performance in the final scenes where Jesus is tormented on the way to Golgotha and crucified is compelling.
Buller delivers a dynamite performance as Judas, presenting him with such complexity, that at times, the audience seems to sympathize with him. Vocally he nails every number, from the opening “Heaven On Their Minds” to the memorable “Damned for All Time” and “Blood Money .”
As Mary Magdalene, Olivia Damore’s exquisite soprano is perfect for the most iconic song from this show, “I Don’t Know To love Him.” Her duet with Monahan, a reprise of “Everything’s All Right,” is another high point of the show.
The show offers many opportunities for area actors to shine. Mark Drey as Caiaphas, and Gordon Joyner, Ken Cowan and Steve Daniels as the High Priests, present an imposing and impressive front, particularly in “This Jesus Must Die.”
Representing the voice of reason as Pontius Pilate is Scott Troutman and the voice of insanity is Chris Weiss as Herod. Weiss probably has one of the most fun roles in the show as the over-the-top ruler, Herod. His rendition of “King Herod’s Song” adds much-needed comic relief.
The cast also features Sean Lynch as Peter, Andrew Hess as Simon Zealotes, the other apostles: Ian Williams, Ryan Katzenmoyer, Tyler Reppert, Colin Lynch, Sean Hafer, Ryan Ferrante, Julian Morales, Gregory Boyer and Tyler Montgomery and the apostle women: Lauren Drey, Molly O’Brien, Olivia Gardella, Kirsten Heim, Cheyene Hails, Mary Britton, Amy Swartz, Melissa Kaufmann, Jaymi Kauffman, Meghan Austin and Emily Kuhns.
The Roman Guards are played by Bill Eschbach, Tim Hafer, John Innarelli, Michael O’Brien and the children of Bethany are played by Karleigh Patton, Ben Daniels, J.D. Kauffman, Emily Shirk and Bridget Ottinger.
Mark A. Drey not only brought Caiaphas to life, but also directed the production. Nathan Patton served as musical director and conducted the orchestra.
Melissa Kaufmann came up with some precision choreography that was well-executed by the cast. It never ceases to amaze me how Kauffman manages to create such big numbers for such a small stage.
Alpha/Omega Players’ “Jesus Christ Superstar” continues through, Aug. 10 at The Alpha/Omega Performing Arts Center, 301 E. First St in Birdsboro. Many performances are already sold-out. For information contact the Players at 610-404-4844 or go to www.alphaomegaplayers.org.