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“Jesus Christ Superstar” Rocks Out at the Incline

Review by Grace Eichler of Jesus Christ Superstar: Incline Theatre

From the precurtain speech to the opening guitar solo, Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar is set to be a biblical rock concert in two hours. Director/Choreographer Maggie Perrino takes the Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera to new heights as we meet the apostles, priests, and, of course, Jesus Christ himself.

As one of Webber’s earlier works, the format is similar to Cats: songs back to back with very little dialogue. The core of this production is literally the band, seated center stage, led by Music Director Greg Dastillung. Highlighting the score is the rock concert lighting, designed by Denny Reed.

The musical begins with the apostles following Jesus around, and Judas (played by Chris Logan Carter) makes himself known as the storyteller. Jesus (played by Kyle Taylor) is a celebrity in his day, much to the dismay of the priests and Judas himself, who remarks that it’s “all gone sour.” Taylor and Carter have two of the most notoriously difficult vocal tracks to execute but do so valiantly. Carter particularly soars in the title song, “Superstar,” and Taylor steps into his own during the agonizing internal debate in the garden of “Gethsemane.” Rounding off the trio is Mary Magdalene, who seems to be driving a wedge between Judas and Jesus. Maddie Vaughn stands out from the rock vocals, where she shines best in her soulful, soothing melodies.

Some moments of the show were chaotic, and rightfully so, but in a vocally reliant show like Superstar it felt like some exposition was lost amongst the sound and the spectacle. Of course, most audiences are highly familiar with the plot, so filling in the blanks is by no means difficult.

It would be remiss to not mention the comedic highlight of the show, every bit the Jonathan Groff-esque turn of royalty. Tyler Gau’s King Herod embraces “Herod’s Song” in a delicious, yet slightly manic, chokehold. Amidst the wailing vocal riffs and complex rhythmic structures of the production, Gau’s four minutes on stage are a brief respite of musical theatre silliness.

Jesus Christ Superstar plays August 15-September 9, 2018 at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre. Tickets are available online or through the Cincinnati Landmark Productions Box Offices at 513-241-6550.