Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Take on Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar
Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities
Redondo Beach, April 24- May 10, 2009

Since meeting Eric last year in Detroit after Whistle Down the Wind I always bemoaned the fact I never had a chance to see him in Jesus Christ Superstar. I had missed him when his two year stint with the national tour came through Detroit. Of course, I had heard him sing Gethsemane on You Tube and in the Andrew Lloyd Webber show in Washington DC. But those did nothing to prepare me for seeing him in character singing that song and playing the role. As usual, he put 100% of himself into the part. Being in the front row, I was able to see the nuances on his face change as he reacted to everything that was said and done to him. During the scourging and crucifixion, his physical reactions were so realistic I couldn’t look at him and it was a relief and reassurance every night at the stage door when he emerged his usual cheery, breezy self. That’s not to say he doesn’t suffer from bumps, bruises, aches and pains from being pushed, thrown on the ground, stomped on, punched, rolled down the stairs and whipped. I’m amazed at how he manages to do that role every night, night after night, vocally and physically. During the show I could hear people around me gasp with amazement at his voice and exiting the theater the word I heard over and over again was “awesome”. Of course, he got a standing ovation every night when he came on stage for the bows.

I must say the whole cast was very strong. When you are blessed with an ensemble like this it heightens everyone’s performances as they play off of one another, feeding off each other’s energy. Kevin Bailey played Pilate as conflicted: alternately regretful, sarcastic and cruel. His song during the trial was chillingly passionate. In the role of Mary Magdalene, Karole Foreman was perfectly matched to Eric. Her role is given more prominence in this production and her relationship to Jesus is more physical and affectionate than I have seen before. She doesn’t oversing her songs and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Everything’s Alright” are pitch perfect. I really liked Josh Tower as Judas. So often, this role is overacted. Josh paced his performance perfectly and as a result the suicide scene is all the more powerful. He and Eric worked together in Miss Saigon recently. They are obviously familiar and comfortable working together.

The costuming in this show was the only thing I would have done differently. Granted they were going for a more modern feel, as reflected in the set with it’s urban steel theme. The ensemble’s costumes had a hippy look to them; the girls in colorful skirts that looked like they came straight from the Gap, the guys in polo shirts and khakis and Eric in cargo pants and tunic. The Pharisees were in long black leather coats and the Roman guards were dressed more traditionally. Herod (played by Harrison White) and his entourage were in black leather S&M gear. When they first appear on stage there was a gasp and laughter from the audience and perhaps that is what the director was going for. I know this scene is the comic relief, but I felt somewhat uncomfortable with it and considering the age median in the audience I suspect I wasn’t the only one. Despite that, Harrison was hilarious and was rewarded with cheers and applause at the curtain call.

The supporting cast and chorus were uniformly talented and enthusiastic. Ron Kellum and Nicole Tillman were standouts to me. Each night, the evening was begun by James Blackman, founder of the CLOSBC, with his pitch for new season subscribers and introduction of the new shows for next year. His monologue was hilarious and had the audience in stitches. I told him he could easily take his act on the comedy circuit. One interesting sidenote: James told us that American Idol contestant Adam Lambert has also appeared on this same stage in Evita.

I attended the first three performances of Jesus Christ Superstar. If my impressions are any indication, this show will be a huge hit as word gets around. I wish Eric and the whole company of Superstar much success and a sold out house every night.

(The views expressed are the **unbiased** opinions of Maggi, and Maggi alone...)

Read more about my trip to California on my blog at: www.maggiwun.blogspot.com

Monday, April 27, 2009

Our Second Annual Fanclub Meeting

Our gathering after the April 26th performance of Jesus Christ Superstar was lovely. Eric's fans are the nicest people on the planet! We enjoyed beverages and munchies, passed out name tags, chocolates, Eric fans, and he autographed photographs for everyone. A special thanks to Karen, Gary and Jane for making the event so nice and to Mr. James Blackman for allowing us to meet in the theater. Finally, thanks to Eric for making all of our day!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Eric Kunze in Jesus Christ Superstar at Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities in Redondo Beach, April 22 - May 10, 2009

From Variety, Aug.6, 2003:
"When the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera made its groundbreaking transition from monster album to Broadway musical in 1971, Ben Vereen stole the show as Judas. In the majority of subsequent productions, Jesus has been routinely overshadowed by his betrayer. So the big news at the Wilshire is Christ's restoration from second banana to superstar, thanks to the outstanding voice and imposing presence of Eric Kunze in the title role."

From NewsObserver (North Carolina), Feb. 27, 2007:
"Eric Kunze's firm, smooth tone gives Jesus' emotions full vent, from the frustration in "What's the Buzz" to the tenderness of "Poor Jerusalem" and the anguish of "Gethsemane," a showstopper of mesmerizing power."

For more information and tickets:

Monday, April 6, 2009

Eric wins IRNE Award for Best Actor - Musical !!!

Congratulations Eric!

Winners have been announced for the 12th annual Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Awards, which were presented last night at the Boston Center for the Arts. 25 different stage productions were honored, with awards bestowed in 24 categories for Large and Small Theatres.
Among the notable acting winners were Ross Bickell, Jack Davidson, and Penny Fuller for their performances in Merrimack Rep's A Delicate Balance; Bianca Marroquin for her performances in North Shore Music Theatre's Bye Bye Birdie and the national tour of Chicago; Anna Deveare Smith for her solo performance Let Me Down Easy; Ken Howard for his solo performance in According to Tip; and Eric Kunze for his performances in Reagle Players' Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the tour of Whistle Down the Wind.

(from TheaterMania/Boston Metro)