RAY OF LIGHT SEASON OPENER IS A POWERFUL ‘JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR’ INCLUDES SOME OF
THE BEST FEMALE BAY AREA TALENT
Jesus is back for the Summer along with all the dynamic characters from the Andrew Lloyd Webber rock musical. Ray of Light opens their 17th season with JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR now on stage through June 9th at the Victoria Theatre. This visually electrifying musical includes all 23 members of this talented cast are diverse women. I remember over the years seeing a few productions who cast mostly women including the lead - because they had no young men who would try out. This was mostly your youth or community theatre stages who had difficult times casting men (because so many young teen men - don't enroll in their theatre departments). This is not the case with this production, other than some of the craft team, there are no men in this cast - This is a amazing cast of women that bring this story to stage and it works! #SHESUS
Co directed by Eliza Leon and Shane Ray, they have brought the best of the Bay Area to stage this all women version of the story of Christ. The two directors agree Women dominate headlines fighting the Trump years and still don’t have equal place in society to men. They say “While we can’t say for sure whether a historical Jesus existed, we know that his story is that of an activist who fought for his cause while preaching love and compassion.” The story from the book of Matthew received in the 1970 concert version a bold retelling by a new writer Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics). The musical that in the ‘70s changed many in listening to theme albums. I bought this album my junior year in High School and I am still a huge fan over the 48 years of “What's the Buzz”.
This version includes four large TV screens broadcasting “Breaking News,” of the current world state. Protesters clash against Rome, as the music pounds by music director Ben Prince’s brillant orchestra. A show stopping Janelle LaSalle, as Jesus emerges from a bloom of smoke and back lights as she comforts the apostles. The powerful Jocelyn Pickett is Judas who sings the important “Heaven on Their Minds” where she complains to Jesus about of her distracted followers is full with her approaching anxiety. This musical is galvanizing, creative, fast-paced and extremely moving. It is everything you want in a production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and more, the directorial twists and turns in the this production at the Victoria stage are a tour de force of this traditional bible theme.
Blending this story of Christ’s journey to the cross with the electrified sounds of blues, rock and funk. A solid cast of 23 headed by the powerhouse LaSalle with the impressive Pickett as Judas and lovely voice of Maita Ponce as Mary. The entertaining Hayley Lovgren steals the show for her short appearance as King Herod; set in a TV interview show format. This is a very grand production with an exceptional cast. Every aspect of the score lead by music director, Prince, works together beautifully, and the cast, leads and chorus rise to the occasion. LaSalle’s Jesus is a darker, Interpretation, she has a marvelous voice, and her "Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)," was thrilling, heartbreaking and a show stopper.
The irony of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is that Jesus is not the star, the lead character is our villain, Judas, who also tells the story. Pickett is a solid Judas, her personal conflict has a distinctly human rather than spiritual dimension. Ponce as Mary Magdalene tries to sooth Jesus and turns to Judas to try unsuccessfully to settle her down the driving ballad "Everything's Alright," but she doesn't know how to connect with Judas and is perplexed about who Jesus is and why he does what he does.
Ponce has an astounding ability to bring an intimacy to her rich, resonant, voice making us feel as if we're hearing Mary's inner thoughts in "I Don't Know How to Love Him." Both LaSalle and Pickett have the vocal range for Webber’s extreme score. All three have moments to shine in solo numbers that feature their vocal talent. The human struggle in this electric new media version is breath taking. The huge digital screens, the live camera crew on stage, and many of the cast using their cell phones to capture moments of their hero’s final moments.
King Herod in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is one of the greatest cameo parts ever, and the wildly talented Hayley Lovgren is incredibly memorable in his solo number “King Herods Song.” Lovgren brings the house down with every bit of musical flair she can muster. She’s a breath of fresh air as she plays the “Oprah” of media evil. The audience returns that joy to the performance; they didn’t realize watching a villain could be so much fun. She is dressed in meters of shimmering gold fabric, like a crazily over-extended pierrot. Costumes by Maggie Whitaker go from dank colorless gloom to flashy colors of the priests and the Apostles.
Other standouts are Courtney Merrell as Pilate, and finesse Melinda Campero as Simon, her rousing "Simon Zealotes" is one of the many high points of the production. Angel Adedokun as Peter also creates a perfect cast. Each has the opposite tone, but with equal effect. Pontius Pilate is a formidable presence with Merrell’s astounding voice in “Pilate and Christ”. When Jesus admonishes Pilate "You have nothing in your hands, any power you have comes to you from far beyond" she snaps and makes the decision to crucify Christ.
Another favorite performance belongs to local favorite Heather Orth's imposing Caiaphas, whose enormous voice rocks the Victoria stage. Christen Sottolano is the sinister Annas and is superb. The talented Aubrey Baker, Leighann Cannon, April Deutschle, Jill Jacobs, Madeline Lambie, Crystal Liu, Cecily Schmidt, Kathryn Sullivan, and Rachel Witte are highlights as apostles. Award winning Choreographer Alex Rodriguez brings the cast down stage for some dynamite moves in a show that does not have history of dance. The choreography is creative and full of verve and highlights this already electric production.
The supporting cast and ensemble are spot on, a show like this also lives and breathes by the ensemble keeps the show constantly moving: Sara Altier, Amy Alvino, Jillian Bader, Sarita Cannon and the dynamite Jennifer Mitchell. They joyously play the various characters from reporters to priests who dare to laugh at a crucifixion. The second act “Trial Before Pilate” and the thirty nine bloody lashes, is highlighted by Christian Mejia dramatic lighting design, his capable design creates a rich deep affective mood blended with his use of a constant mist and fog that gives this musical a dark depth that becomes a character in this production. The production is driven by a truly foolproof orchestra, led by music director Prince. The six member pit were tight with a great sound and kept the show moving with some beautiful solos from Stephen Danska on guitar and Taylor Rankin on percussion including Travis Kindred, Ken Brill, Dave Dobrusky. Prince brought this company to sounds that lifted the Victoria theatre off its Mission street foundation.
Sound designer Theodore Hulsker avoids hand mics, and keeps the orchestra loud and emotional in the design. Award winning set designer Kuo-Hao Lo, created an awesome two level set made of steel, ramps and chain link fences. It is a looming set with TV monitors and a high rise look that loomed over the cast and was great at showcasing the featured cast entrances. Prop master Peet Cocke created the crown and thrones and encouraged the cast to use their own cell phones for that dramatic look in the many on stage riots and protests. The live camera crews on stage are using the video equipment provided by Erik Scanlon and Patrick Nims spellbinding video show of live news feeds. Stage manager Lori Fowler has an challenge moving the cast up and down Lo's spectacular set that includes some awsome live video to work around.
This JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is more than just special; it's a celebration that set the tone for rock operas and help to open this door on Broadway. Directors Ray and Leoni take their time when necessary, there is silence as Judas weeps at his own betrayal. These types of details that both bring to this show are brilliant, sculpting each segment into something distinct, vivid and compelling. The sold out weekend audience sat in bliss silence at the moving moments during this two hours production. But of course at the end of many of the iconic numbers like “Hosanna”, “Gethsemane”, and “Superstar” the audience was almost on their feet with applause.
The powerhouse cast, creative team, and orchestra of this JCSS work together to create an experience that the audience will not soon forget. This creative team is so impressive that it makes this trip to Jerusalem a MUST SEE. The overall effect of the show is humbling, you’ll still leave the theatre humming those famous melodies. Ray of Light’s remarkable production of this classic is a great way for the stunning company to start their 2018 - 19 theatre season. Up next is HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH that opens Sept 14th, but in the meantime #SHESUS is the show to see.
Ray of Light Theatre Presents:
Jesus Christ Superstar
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Book by Tim Rice
Directed by Eliza Leoni
and Shane Ray
Choreography by Alex Rodriguez
Set Design by Kuo-Hao Luo
Musical Direction by Ben Prince
Live Video effects by Erik Scanlon
and Patrick Nims
Through June 9th
16th and Mission, San Fran, CA
Running time: 2 hours, one intermission
Pictures by Ray of Light Photog
Jesus Christ Superstar
Maita Ponce (Mary) Janelle LaSalle (Jesus) Melinda Campero (Simon) Sarita Cannon (Priest) Jennifer Mitchell (Priest)\ Angel Adedokun (Peter) April Deutschle (Apostle)\ Madeline Lambie (Apostle) LeighAnn Cannon (Apostle)\ Audrey Baker (Apostle) Amy Alvino (Priest) Rachel Witte (Apostle) Cecily Schmidt (Apostle) Jillian Bader (Priest) Crystal Liu (Apostle) Heather Orth (Caiaphas) Courtney Merrell (Pilate) Kathryn Sullivan (Apostle) Christen Sottolano (Annas) Sara Altier (Priest) Jocelyn Pickett (Judas) Jill Jacobs (Apostle) Hayley Lovgren (Herod)
Jenn BeVard (Dramaturgy) Daniel Cadigan (Technical Director) Connie Carranza (Assistant Stage Manager) Peet Cocke (Props Designer) Lori Fowler (Stage Manager) Chanterelle Grover (Wardrobe Associate) Anton Hedman (Sound Engineer Theodore J.H. Hulsker (Sound Designer) Josh Kirkbride (Spot Operator)Eliza Leoni (Co-Director) Ku o-Hao Lo (Set Designer) Christian V. Mejia (Lighting Director) Aaron Mills (Spot Operator) Patrick Nims (Video Coordinator) Ben Prince (Music Director)
Shane Ray (Co-Director) Alex Rodriguez (Choreographer) Erik Scanlon (Video Designer) Weili Shi (Master Electrician, Assistant Lighting Designer) Maggie Whitaker (Costume Designer)
Ben Prince (Keyboard/Conductor)
Stephen Danska (Guitar)
Travis Kindred (Bass)
Taylor Rankin (Drums)
Ken Brill/Dave Dobrusky (Keyboard 2)