vocal powerhouse as Jesus - Boston Herald

Saturday November 11, 2000

Boston Rock Opera's resurrected "Superstar" is mostly a heavenly delight


In cream-colored crewneck-sweater and khakis, the title character in the Boston Rock Opera production of Jesus Christ Superstar merits a note in the playbill reading, "deity's clothes provided by the Gap." (Can't you see the ad campaign: "Everyone in a crown of thorns!")

Yet it's just that homogeneity of appearance in this modern dress production that drives home the theme of an ordinary man rising to extraordinary heights in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 30-year-old rock opera.

A vocal powerhouse as Jesus, Chris Mascara is, like many of the BRO players, a true rock musician, and he brought a sparkly charisma to his role Thursday night at the Tower Auditorium. That charm is essential to the occasionally hokey show's format, the inevitable result of mashing together two disparate genres and mandating that all dialogue be sung.

Jesus Christ Superstar chronicles the last seven days of Jesus' life. The show's big story and even bigger music lends itself to a style of overacting from which director John Whiteside kept the BRO players from succumbing. While some in the scrappy cast were clearly more accomplished than others—with varying degrees of rigidity—hamminess never exceeded a level inescapable in a Lloyd Webber world.

Mascara was the picture of stillness and economy of movement early on, making his eventual explosion at God during "Gethsemane" much more dramatic.

Former Extreme/Van Halen lead singer Gary Cherone's Judas was as jittery as Jesus was calm. It's easy to see why Cherone, after playing the title role in two previous BRO productions, would want to switch parts. With his conflicting emotions, melodramatic songs and spectral reemergence—in silver leather pants, fronting a choir of angels clad in negligees and platform shoes—Judas is a much more fun part. And Cherone imbued his relationship with Jesus with an interesting undercurrent of romantic tension. The same can be said for Valerie Forgione's graceful Mary Magdalene.

On a spare stage outfitted with scaffolding--behind which an excellent seven-piece band played—the ensemble was likewise strong with several players deserving of kudos, notably Peter Moore's excellent Floyd-ian portrayal of Pilate and Pat McGrath's hilariously hedonistic King Herod.

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