by Kevin M. Thomas, @ReelKev
It might seem that 70-year-old composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is more a relic then relevant. But you should think again.
The world may have grown tired of shows like “Cats.” Even “Phantom of the Opera” isn’t as fresh as it once was. But if you think of “Phantom,” for example, it still has awe-inspiring theatrical moments and has one of theatre’s most lush scores and memorable songs of a Broadway show.
But before you move Webber to the back burner, he’s become a viable composer again. He returned to the foreground a few years ago with the fresh “School of Rock” (coming soon to the Bay Area) with its phenom cast and rock songs, he also has found a new allegiance of fans with the TV version of his classic “Jesus Christ Superstar,” starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles.
San Francisco’s Ray of Light Theatre also brings relevance to Webber with their all-female production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” playing at the Victoria Theatre through June 9.
ROLT’s production brings the story of Jesus to modern times and puts it in an ISIS-like setting as it strengthens the plight of women, perfect in a #metoo movement.
The universally outstanding cast is lead by Janelle Lasalle in the role of Jesus.
Her powerhouse vocal prowess is Broadway level and truly captivating. Her rendition of “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)” is likely one of the best I’ve ever heard – even among Grammy, Oscar and Tony-winning performers. She reaches the audience at a truly emotional level as she shows her own raw vulnerability.
Another standout is Maita Ponce as Mary. Ponce has the tough task of singing the show’s most known song, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” While she might have heard dozens of versions on YouTube, Ponce does her own version of the popular tune. Instead of copying a success, she makes an original – a gamble that pays off.
Then there’s Hayley Lovgren as Herod. Her second act, a scene-stealing showstopping tune is a welcome comedic relief as she plays the role as a sensationalizing TV judge. Quite the bright moment in a show that ends in a crucifixion.
The female “Superstar” also blends well the marriage of lighting (by Christian M. Mejia) and sets (by Kuo-Hao Lo).
From start to finish, this “Superstar” showcases the superstar talents that the Bay Area has to offer.
It also doesn’t hurt that Andrew Lloyd Webber shows that sometimes something old can be new again.
For tickets and information, go to http://rayoflighttheatre.com/jesus-christ-superstar/