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REVIEW: The Unadvertised Jesus Christ Superstar Concert Experience (Orpheum Theatre)

The national touring company of Jesus Christ Superstar, playing through Sunday, 1/26 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

The tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, now playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, has a lot in common with last month’s run of Six at the Ordway. If you walked into either expecting a true book musical experience, you’d probably be disappointed. If you arrived expecting a concert with a few extras, you’d probably have a great time. Expectations matter, and this rousing production of Jesus Christ Superstar is much more about the pulsing dancing and vocal styles of its talented cast than drawing out story beats.

One almost feels bad for the stagehands doing post-show cleanup: When this show glitters, it glitterbombs. Some of the show’s flashy touches include body glitter streaming from the bare chests of sinuous male dancers, and Jesus (an excellent Aaron LaVigne) literally assaulted by glitter-throwing crowds. Story-wise, does it make a rational logic? No, but it looks (and sounds) very cool, and that is the musical-theatrical place where this touring production lives.

Jesus Christ Superstar on tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Jesus Christ Superstar, like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s other effort Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, has been woven into so many people’s psyche for so long that it’s easy to forget that it started out as a concept album and concert experience. That it made it to the stage and has been delivered for decades with intimate personal and storytelling beats doesn’t change that the book of this musical is, well, rather brief. Calibrate accordingly, but musically and visually it’s a lot of fun. And Jenna Rubaii as Mary Magdalene is simply excellent.

The national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar plays at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN through January 26.

Amy Donahue