Jesus Christ Superstar
Director: Werner Sobotka
Writer: Andrew Lloyd Webber (music), Tim Rice (lyrics)
Cast: Drew Sarich, Alex Melcher, Nadine Beiler, Mark Sampson, Tobias Bieri, Benjamin Sommerfeld, Marc Clear, Peter Kratochvil, Armin Kahl
Seen on: 05.04.2015
Jesus (Drew Sarich) has become really successful and has gathered quite a following. Among his apostels is Judas (Alex Melcher) who has grown more and more discontent at the direction Jesus is taking the group and he’s also suspicious of the cult surrounding Jesus as a person. As the rift between them becomes bigger, Jesus knows that his time on Earth as the son of god is drawing to an end and that Judas will play a big part in that.
Almost every year around Easter, they show a limited run of a Jesus Christ Superstar production in Vienna that isn’t quite a full-sized musical/opera. It’s been years that I saw it and last time I did, it actually was just a concert, with five or so singers taking on multiple roles. By now the production has grown quite substantially, has costumes, choreographies and a rather big cast. It’s still not the most complicated play, but I’d say, it is a complete show and not just a concert. And it’s good.
Usually Jesus Christ Superstar will focus on Judas. It is his show as much as it can be for an opera called Jesus Christ Superstar, with Judas dying about halfway through. Judas is generally the most innovative aspect of the opera’s take on the story, so that doesn’t surprise. In this case, though, it is Jesus himself who steals every scene. Or rather it is Drew Sarich’s performance which is mind-blowing.
Despite initial irritation around me that Sarich is almost bald, proving how ingrained the image of long-haired, bearded, white, blond Jesus is in our collective heads, Sarich quickly proves that he is more than up for the task. Not only is it completely understandable why people would follow him, he manages to incorporate both Jesus’ arrogance and his vulnerability in his portrayal. And his “get out”s – the half-singing-half-screaming is where most Jesuses I’ve seen so far tend to fall short – gave me goosebumps and filled my eyes with tears.
When you got a Jesus like that, there’s not much else you need, though this production still has it. Alex Melcher as Judas is far from bad. Nadine Beiler sounded exactly like Yvonne Elliman in the film, making me think that she tried her hardest to emulate her and being really successful at it. Marc Clear as Pilate was also fantastic, as was Armin Kahl as crowpleaser Herod.
The rather simple production won’t win any prizes for originality, but that worked in its favor, since it underscored the universality of the rock star myth in our society today. Though I liked it even better that they had the orchestra on stage, putting the myth production process, the essential background work by usually unseen people center stage (whether that was a conscious choice or not, I don’t know). Those two themes go very well hand in hand with the general thrust of the opera itself.