Moonlight Stuns with ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

Richard Bermudez. (Photos courtesy of Fred Tracey.)

Richard Bermudez. (Photos courtesy of Fred Tracey.)

From the 1960’s to the 1980’s, composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and lyricist, Tim Rice, worked on several popular musicals. Their breakout show as a duo is the 1970 show, Jesus Christ Superstar, which is currently being presented by Moonlight Stage Productions. I’m pleased to say that Artistic Director, Steven Glaudini, does justice to the complicated and nuanced rock opera.

Initially released as a concept album before running on Broadway and the West End, the story is an artistic interpretation of the final days in the life of Jesus (Richard Bermudez). The plot dramatizes Jesus’ deteriorating relationship with his disciple, Judas Iscariot (Brian Justin Crum) and shows why this led to both of their deaths.

Songs from Rice and Webber are simultaneously catchy and introspective. Musical numbers, such as “Heaven on Their Minds,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” and “Gethesmane” reveal the inner-thoughts of Jesus, his follower, Mary Magdalene (Monika Peña) and Judas while still providing melodies that linger long after the tale is over.

Their songs also challenge the audience by forcing them to think about whether Jesus’ crucifixion could have been prevented, and what the significance of his death meant to the world.

A strong storyteller is required to keep theatregoers invested in the almost completely sung-through evening. Glaudini accomplishes the task by honoring the original source material without sacrificing his original vision. From a text-heavy opening scene featuring projections by Blake McCarty, to the conclusion, Glaudini makes artistic choices that help keep the musical fresh, even more than 50 years after its inception.

Glaudini’s crew deserve to be singled out for collaborating to his unique production. Kevin Depinet’s set and Renetta Lloyd’s costumes mix New Testament and modern influences, without veering into camp. In addition, Jennifer Edwards’ lighting adds to emotionally intense tunes, particularly “The Temple/Make Us Well,” and “Damned for All Time/Blood Money.”

Each of the numbers showcase the massive company and the orchestra.
Bermudez, Crum and Peña all sing their songs beautifully, and humanize Jesus, Judas and Mary.

Richard Bermudez, Monika Peña and the cast.

I ended up empathizing with the Biblical figures, because of the moving performances from the trio.

Many supporting players (most of them dance to electric choreography provided by Jimmy Locust) get moments to shine, with Jeffrey Ricca, DeAndre Simmons, E.Y. Washington and Max DeLoach bringing conviction to their roles with strong singing, acting and dancing. One cameo that is worth singling out is Dallas McLaughlin who brings much needed humor as King Herod shortly before the events turn violently tragic.

Every member of the band, under the leadership of Music Director and conductor, Lyndon
Pugeda, contribute to both lighter and heavier songs throughout the night. Musicians, including guitarists Charles Jirkovsky and Nikko Nobleza and keyboardists Kevin Capacia, Kevin Charoensri and Robert Johnson perfectly blend rock and roll with orchestral music.

Touching and intellectually stimulating, Jesus Christ Superstar remains a highlight of Webber and Rice’s partnership. Moonlight has started their 2023 season with a crowd-pleasing spectacle.

DOWNLOAD MUSICAL NUMBERS AND CAST AND CREW HERE

Show times are Wednesday through Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m.

1 A B C D E G I J L M N O P Q R S T U W
Photo of Moonlight Stage Productions
Moonlight Stage Productions
Work Moonlight Amphitheatre 1200 Vale Terrace Drive Vista CA 92084 USAWork Avo Playhouse 303 Main Street Vista CA 92084 USA Work Phone: (760) 724-2110 Website: Moonlight Stage Productions website
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