A Director’s Dream Comes True: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Sketch Club

by Arlene Price Kohler

Ed Corsi, as 'Judas', with the cast of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, playing at Sketch Club in Woodbury, NJ through October 17.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR was originally released as a concept album.   The original production, with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, opened in London in 1971 and ran for more than eight years.  There have been two movie versions. 

Director John Blackwell’s bio in the playbill states that he has directed this show in his head for 39 years. He has given us, with the help of talented leads, a strong ensemble and an attractive, well designed set, a thought provoking version of the last days in the life of Jesus. There are some wonderful and powerful moments in the show. There are some things I feel could be improved upon. When I began this job I knew it would be hard to give criticism, as an artist myself I know it can be hard to hear. I hope that it will be taken in the spirit given, simply to create a better production.

The set is attractive and well conceived and John’s staging works it well.

The opening scene with the use of two narrators to give us a little background is weak.

The use of the two tormentors well played by sisters Amy Schhaaf and Karen Roorda is a great concept and very well staged throughout the production.

When Sean Casey walked out on stage, with that body mike pinned front and center, it was so distracting. With his strong voice and acting skills, in a six row theater, a body mike hardly seemed necessary. If you choose to use them please try to hide them.

Sean Casey’s performance starts out subtle and builds into an almost riveting intensity in the second act.  I am not a fan of the rock star screeching. I think the power of his voice and his delivery would serve the score and my ears better.

Ed Corsi as Judas turns in a fine performance…again not a fan of pushing the vocals beyond their limits…it detracts from his excellent voice. I wish his costuming had been more  of a period interpretation.

Jennifer Knackstedt turns in a nice performance as Mary Magdelene. Her voice is lovely. Her duet with Peter, played by Keith Bowers, is most enjoyable. 

George Stoff as Caiaphas has great delivery and wonderful deep voice.  I liked the performances of all the priests…Vic Arlington, Tyrone Fuimaono and Greg Murphy.  Ditto for Ed Ippolito as Pontius Pilate.  Ed Santiago as Simon is another stand out voice.

While I hardly feel the vaudeville number fits the mood of the show, Jon Guire’s portrayal of King Herod is hilarious. The choreography is clever. Kudos – very well done, Jon.

The rest of the  ensemble:  Preston Brooks, Chris Casey, Ian Kimble, Donamarie Pizzo, Steve Pracilio, Tara Romanelli, Beth Samuel, Amy Skinner and Melissa Silver are strong with good voices. I did not like the ‘hippie costuming’. 

The musicians were wonderful. Brian Walsh director and accompanist, Fred Buehler on Bass, Lee Basil on guitar and Alex Gonzales on drums.

All in all a dream come true for director John Blackwell and a job well done.

Sketch Club is housed in an old three story schoolhouse at 433 Glover Street in Woodbury, New Jersey. Six rows of stadium seating assures that everyone has a good seat. During intermission in a large and lovely upstairs parlour, coffee is elegantly served to you (gratis) from silver urns in small china cups. Light refreshments are available for purchase.

by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by John Blackwell
October 1 – 17, 2010
Sketch Club Players
433 Glover Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096

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