Andrew Lloyd Webber has said he’s never really been happy with Jesus Christ Superstar until now — 41 years after its stage debut. That’s high advance praise for the new Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival-born Broadway revival. Yet from the overture’s first piercing, plaintive wail of electric guitar, it’s clear why the composer gave his blessing. Director Des McAnuff — the go-to guy for rock & roll musicals (see: The Who’s Tommy and Jersey Boys) — obviously worships the songs. This may be Jesus’ story, but the stars of the production are Lloyd Webber’s psychedelic melodies and Tim Rice’s beautifully unfussy lyrics. And they sound sensational.
McAnuff has assembled a glorious group of voices, including Paul Nolan (Jesus) and Josh Young (Judas) — both extraordinarily good rock screamers — and Chilina Kennedy as hooker-turned-handmaiden Mary Magdalene. (Also impressive: the smooth stylings of Marcus Nance as conniving high priest Caiaphas. It can’t be easy to enunciate under that Battlefield Earth hairdo and Matrix-style trench.) Would that Nolan had a little more — or any — charisma to go with his killer vocals on the climactic ”Gethsemane.” But given a choice between a boring Jesus who belts it to the balcony and a charmer who can’t hit a high D, I’ll take a superstar singer any day. B
(Tickets: Ticketmaster.com or 800-982-2787)