LISBON 'Jesus Christ' rises to occasion

While the message was serious, at times there were moments of comic relief.
LISBON -- "Jesus Christ Superstar," the gospel as interpreted by the Stage Left Players of Lisbon, garnered a standing ovation from the audience attending the opening night performance Friday at the David Anderson High School.
Although the dramatic rock opera may not be everyone's religious cup of tea, and at times has been deemed sacrilegious, the innovative concept of the Biblical story was an engrossing production, a virtual kaleidoscope of music and movement.
Under the direction of Kandace Cleland, the enthusiasm of the huge, multitalented cast brought to life the modern version of the story of the life and Crucifixion of Jesus.
Although filled with meaningful songs composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, the one that left a lasting impression was the haunting "I Don't Know How to Love Him," as sung by Mary Magdalene (Devon Cleland). Her voice also blended perfectly with that of Matt Newman in the role of Peter, as the two presented the moving "Could We Start Again, Please."
Playing the devil: David Bedell was outstanding in his role as the money-hungry traitor Judas. With his resounding voice and believable actions, he changed onstage from something of a devil's advocate into a groveling sinner who ultimately learns that money can't buy happiness.
By the same token, Joe Eritz gave an equally impressive performance as Jesus, who blessed children, forgave sinners and drove money changers from the temple.
While the message of the modern, updated version of the gospel was serious, the strategic use of a video dramatized some of the action and at times added moments of comic relief to the production.
The most amusing segment took place during "King Herod's Song," an enticing soliloquy presented by an impressive Craig Snay and his girls, girls, girls.
Lots of energy: The provocative rock musical was peppered with wonderfully meaningful songs, symbolic dances and gestures, all delivered with gusto and deep feeling by all of the energetic performers.
While the entire cast, crew and musicians played an integral part in the production and were deserving of recognition, to name them individually is an impossibility.
However, among those garnering accolades for their moments in the spotlight were Jeff Smith as Pilate, Susan Smith as Claudia (Pilate's wife), Dave Wack as Caiaphas, Kurt Ro as Simon the Zealot, Mark Frost as Joab, and Sue Volman, Nancy Wolf and Mike Newman as high priests.
The nonstop thematic choreography by Adam Roberts was excellently executed by the exciting, tireless group of vivacious young dancers who helped make the Stage Left version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" a compelling, spellbinding production that held one's attention from beginning to end.

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