Review round-up: Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway

The Globe and Mail

What's the buzz? The Stratford Shakespeare Festival's production of Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Broadway Thursday night - and the New York reviews have been mixed. My take is here, but here's a sample of what the other critics had to say.

SAVIOUR: Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune. "As he did in Stratford last summer, McAnuff embraces one of the musical theater's most unusual, famous, bizarre, historically audacious and, in this instance, thoroughly enjoyable properties with a production remarkably in sync with the material."

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BETRAYER: Christopher Isherwood, The New York Times. "If a musical were to be judged by the amount of time its characters spent gazing meaningfully into the audience, this production would be trumps… Las Vegas, where Mr. McAnuff’s Jersey Boys has recently reopened might be the ideal destination for this slick production of a show that turns martyrdom into a splashy pop spectacle."

SAVIOUR: Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg. "Jesus Christ Superstar recaptures a moment more precisely than the weak-kneed revival of Godspell a few blocks away. It got under my skin."

BETRAYER: Mark Kennedy, AP. "'I've been living to see you. Dying to see you, but it shouldn't be like this,' sings a lovely Chilina Kennedy as Mary Magdalene with lyrics that might as well refer to this production. 'Could we start again?'"

SAVIOUR: David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter. "Does the production make a great case for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s epochal take on the Passion play? Probably better than most. Either way, it’s an entertaining guilty pleasure."

BETRAYER: Elysa Gardner, USA Today. "Though intermittently moving and seldom dull, this account of Jesus' final days on Earth isn't recommended to anyone with a low tolerance for pomp. Or a headache, for that matter."

SAVIOUR: Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer. "Josh Young's Judas is a standout, not just for his powerful singing but his ability to act through song. Chilina Kennedy's Mary Magdalene, Tom Hewitt's Pontius Pilate and Bruce Dow's goofy King Herod come off just so, and Lisa Shriver's choreography makes for dandy dancing disciples. While this revival may not present the superstar of our dreams, it provides solid musical reasons to walk in its ways."

SAVIOUR: Linda Winer, Newsday. "The slick and loud high-tech production, acclaimed from Canada to Southern California, is serious, passionate and handsome in ways that seem to grow from McAnuff's recent years directing Shakespeare and opera."

BETRAY-VIOUR? Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News. "The heartiest hosanna goes to Jeremy Kushnier (filling in for an ailing Josh Young) as Judas, whose betrayal of Jesus gets major focus. Kushnier is a fierce singer and blessed with full-throttle charisma. It was a stunning turn of events: The understudy shall inherit the role — and walk away with the show."