Featured Stories, Reviews

‘He will come again’

Chanhassen’s ‘Superstar’ captures Jesus’ life, death

Jesus (Ben Bakken) blesses the wine and bread at what is his last supper with his disciples. Photo credit: Act One, Too Ltd.

Jesus Christ Superstar. Lyrics by Tim Rice; music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Chanhassen Dinner Theatres through July 30. Dinner and show, $52-77; only show, $51-65. Tickets: 952/934-1525 or www.ChanhassenDT.com.

Lent is upon us. Traveling the wilderness, pilgrims do not yet know what to anticipate about Easter. And yet, we know in the back of our minds of the coming resurrection.

The Chanhassen Dinner Theatre production of Jesus Christ Superstar varies subtly from the original by not leaving the resurrection ambiguous. Creatively using the curtain call as an opportunity to show Jesus, after death, alive with a heavenly glow, this production avoids some of the controversy that followed the original performances in the 1970s.

That is not the only creative aspect of this wonderfully directed, produced, and acted show. The pit orchestra is visible on stage, and offers powerfully jazzy versions of the rock anthems. Especially memorable was a vibe complement to Jesus’ (Ben Bakken) vocals on “The Arrest.”

No review would be complete without mentioning the vibrancy of the choreography and the power of the dancing. This may be the first musical this reviewer has seen that could do away with the words entirely and still provide an emotionally powerful performance with just music and dance.

But, let’s not get rid of the lyrics or the acting, because they too are powerful.

Jared Oxborough turns in a definitive portrayal of Judas, the political strategist who wants the Jesus movement to succeed — by any means necessary. In response, the radically nonviolent vision of Jesus is well-captured by Bakken. And Michelle Carter’s Mary Magdalene is stellar; her interpretation of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” exceeds the original.

Was it perfect? Well, I could have used less “other worldly” reverb at a couple points. But, when the best criticism a reviewer can offer pertains to three minutes of sound production, it’s a safe bet the show is excellent. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans can be a proud to be an underwriter of this show.

The dinner theatre has updated its dinner menu. Vegetarians now have more options.

Chanhassen has resurrected a classic production here. Prepare for Holy Week by taking a church group to the show. And then, discuss.

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