Joe Doyel as Judas
Bob Harbin has made a name for himself by putting on some of the most professional caliber shows in Indianapolis, and the current Bobdirex production of Jesus Christ Superstar is no different. Don’t just take it from me; every other reviewer of theatre in town was there front and center in the audience with me for opening night—after the show we each produced our swords and battled to death (there can be only one).
Fans should please take note that Harbin has moved on from his previous home base at the Athenaeum to the Marian University Theatre. Peggy Smith’s set was quite spartan, but by no means minimal; ingeniously incorporating rolling ladders (something shockingly ignored in theatrical ventures), it’s bare, dark, skeletal structure allowed for multiple, easy rearrangements to suit each scene. Which is more, I can’t help but wonder if the set’s darkness was used symbolically against the purely white robed Christ, the Light of the World. Skipping an obvious pun, Matthew Cunningham’s lighting design took advantage of the bare bones stage to provide lots of whimsical fun for the eyes in addition to some appropriately impactful images. There were some moments when the sound levels were a little off, but this is common and I am certain they will be fixed immediately. As for the music, everything was top shelf; musical and vocal director Trevor Fanning ensured everyone sounded as good as possible, and it was evident that this man was completely devoted to and enthralled in the sounds being created as he bopped along with the music from his perch like a contemporary Bernstein.
There was not a single weak player among the cast, lead by Joe Doyel as Judas and Patrick Clements as Jesus. Doyel’s vocals took a decidedly rock and roll approach, powerfully blasting through his songs as juxtaposed to the vocal work of Clements, who had a sweeter, more belle canto quality. Both men, though, could sustain a heck of clear high note, frequently eliciting applause. Harbin also snuck in a truly brilliant little piece of foreshadowing in his staging of the infamous silver payment.
And on that note, it must be stated that, as usual, the bad guys stole the show. Michael Lasley’s bass register was magnificent both when cutting through the air in a solo as Caiaphas and when warming the ensemble in harmony. Putting forth an electric performance was Ty Stover, accentuating the dual nature of Pontius Pilate as a bombastic tyrant but also a remarkably thoughtful, almost prophetic leader in a position he finds progressively distasteful. Stover’s vocals and effortless embodiment of Pilate are the standard all performers should hope to meet; however, the one person who provided, bar none, the most amusement for evening (and doing so in only one number at that) was Danny Kingston as the licentious, derisive, and fabulous King Herod. Kingston had the audience on a gold studded leash as he nimbly cavorted about the stage to Kenny