Bristol’s JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR; A leap of faith that works!

Put away your Nazarene garb and sandals. This Superstar rocks a “Rent” style talent- heavy production. 

Director Keith Baker who celebrates his 30 years as Bristol’s Artistic Director pushes the envelope without going over the top for Bristol’s Jesus Christ Superstar.

Bristol Riverside Theater presents a dramatic and visually exciting take on “a global phenomenon that has wowed audiences for over 40 years. Jesus Christ Superstar is a timeless work set against the backdrop of an extraordinary and universally-known series of events but seen, unusually, through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.” ~ Jesus Christ Superstar website.

Having seen the staged production twice on Broadway, three times regionally with such iconic actors/singers as Ted Neely (the original Jesus on film), Danny Zolli as Jesus, Kevin Gray as Pilate, Tony Vincent as Judas as well as Rock star Sebastian Bach as Jesus and Carl Anderson as Judas and many more, well, you never know what to expect when a theater mounts this epic sometimes controversial rock opera.

The first thing to puzzle the Bristol crowd is the 25 foot stage totally covered wall to wall with white steps. So perhaps this is going to be very dramatic or a disaster or both! Fortunately and thanks to the talents of Choreographer Stephen Casey this entire cast was really on their toes, carefully placed for every scene and song. The steps were treated to some very high tech lighting and projections by Joe Doran and John Hoey that enhance each scene as they scroll over the steps.

The cast, from the mop -headed Patrick Dunn (Jesus) who is a marvelous Messiah to Adam Kemmerer (Judas) who is the show-stealing snitch to Ciji Prosser ( Mary Magdalene) who warms the heart, each bring out their best and they simply dazzle! Dunn’s “Gethsemane”, which every die-hard JCS demands perfection, possess a ‘got-to-hear-it-to believe it ‘voice sustaining his money notes to the next level.

Kemmerer’s Judas is a magnet of madness and frustration. Ciji Prosser captures Mary Magdalene so realistically. Her “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” was one of the sweetest most vulnerable versions I’ve seen and heard. Standout performances are offered by Julian Alvarez (Simon Zealotes) and Derrick Cobey (Peter), who also sings the touching “Could We Start Again Please? duet with Mary Magdalene. The stern Caiaphas was strongly played and sung as deep as any baritone as I’ve heard by long-time actor Steve Steiner.

 

The 15 piece orchestra cleverly almost hidden top left of the steps aptly handles the 25 rock song made famous by the incredible Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Such favorites include “Heaven on Their Minds”, “Hosanna”, “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”, Gethsemane”, Could We Start Again Please?”, “King Herods’s Song”, and of course “Superstar”.

Baker’s strong directional moments are seen in his many choices; the focus on Mary Magdalene’s big solo number staged and spotlighted sitting alone as she wipes off her lipstick and tears off her wig to expose a vulnerable woman changed by her affection for Jesus. The sick, blind and lame appearing in ghostly white veiled cloth begging Jesus to heal them adds a dramatic touch. “King Herod’s Song” and scene is a flashback to a Ziegfield Follies Revue. (I found it amusing at the reactions from this somewhat older perhaps new to JCS audience seemingly unsure of some of goings on at times). Pilate (Darren Ritchie) is presented as a modern-day typical rich business man, who plays golf during the persecution of Christ. The fact the actual crucifixion is never seen yet heard and felt quite dramatically. I was wishing that a resurrection would take place…but we all know the true story!

All in all these actors were completely up for the task of the show on the steps and Keith Baker’s gut feelings for his Superstar proves “Everything’s Alright” about this production.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR plays at the Bristol Riverside Theatre, Bristol Pa. through April 16. For tickets and information visit www.brtstage.org  call 215.785.0100.

Production Photo Credits: Mark Garvin

Pati Buehler (Broadwayworld.com) and Derrick Cobey (Peter)

 

Bristol Riverside Theater Presents “THE CALAMARI SISTERS’ BIG FAT ITALIAN WEDDING”

Dockside_CalamariSisterBigFatWeddingBrace yourselves…They’re BACK! …and one of them is getting married. Brooklyn’s favorite Italian bawdy yet beautiful broads are invading the peaceful river banks of Bristol Pa with their LIVE broadcast of the Cooking- Singing- Dancing Pre- Wedding Buffet and Venetian Dessert Table show!

I should have known as two busloads of women pulled up in front of the Bristol that we were in for an evening of side splitting, spaghetti tossing, spandex- stuffed silliness and Delphine and Carmella Calamari never disappoint!  Having been turned down by the Food Network never stops these ‘sausage and peppers’ kinda gals from dishing out the family stories as they cook up a storm for this special occasion.

Delphine is engaged to Angelo much to the disgust of her baby sister Carmela. It seems that Delphine has turned down Larry, the greatest butcher in Brooklyn whose meat Delphine adores to marry a guy who claims her late parents had arranged for her to marry. Angelo, who literally ‘phones in’ his appearance, seems oddly and overly interested in the ‘family’ tomato sauce recipe. Sauce? Gravy? Hey, don’t even go there with these two.Calamari-700x275 (1)

For those unfamiliar with these sisters, let’s meet them; Delphine, whose love of meat was known as “the Italian girl who could tell you which butcher a sausage came from with her eyes closed”. She sang duets with her sister Carmella at the St. Lawrence of the Roasted Martyrs Church and excelled at Miss Flo Flo’s School of Dance for Bigger Girls. Carmella, who came into the world at 15 pounds, began competing in the Bay Ridge pageant circuits where she was crowned Miss Stuck Pig of Bay Ridge as well as Miss Macaroni of Greater Brooklyn until her disqualification for serving a judge minestrone soup out of her Gucci knock off pump. Carmella was the darling of St. Lady of the Divine Pain High School Drama Club and nearly landed a major role when she was cast as Kathy Bates butt double.

IMAG0013I had the rare joy of conversing briefly with the girls in the Green Room prior to the show. Our conversation cannot be discussed as I saw a cement truck next to the river and after all there was a full moon on opening night, so I was not taking any chances. But Carmella’s suspicious laughter was not to be denied.

Back to the show! So between the saucepans, cleavers and cutting boards comes the singing and dancing which burst out when you least expect it starting with their anthem “Mambo Italiano”. While Carmella has Delphine on the Gandhi diet of rice cakes and celery to fit into her bridal gown, Delphine is gorging herself from the meat locker and breaking out in reprises of “Meat, Glorious Meat”. This bride-to-be really missed her calling with a thrilling singing disco dance version of “MacArthur Park” around the wedding cake. But the show- stopping number has to be the Pasta Parade Buffet where both sisters roll out four body gurneys filled with about 20 pasta varieties in huge steel food vaults and break out in a “Name Game” salute to all the pastas in the world and challenge the audience to sing along.

Feeling lonely and left out Carmella stages a spoof of the “Dating Game” by rolling out a couch and inviting 3 unfortunate men from the audience and proceeds to verbally interrogate them with embarrassing questions in her version of this “Mating Game”. So the big questions remain; Will Delphine marry her fiancée, or will her love for Larry and his juicy sausages prevail? Will Carmela find Mr. Right and manage to stay in those Spandex tights? Will the audience ever remember the pasta names  from the Delphine and Carmella wedding photobuffet song?

THE CALAMARI SISTERS’ BIG FAT ITALIAN WEDDING is the brainchild of Jay Falzone, Dan Lavender, and Stephen Smith. Make no mistake; these salami slinging brawling siblings bring enough talent to the stage to rival Robin Williams and Jim Carrey on their best days; a cross between slap stick, vaudeville with a nonstop mix of stand-alone jokes, gags, Italian shtick, clever wit, and a generous measure of naughtiness, making brilliantly clever fools of themselves and the audience can’t breathe from laughter from start to finish.

THE CALAMARI SISTERS’ BIG FAT ITALIAN WEDDING plays at the Bristol Riverside Theater, 120 Radcliff St. Bristol Pa through August 2, 2015. For Tickets and more information visit www.brstage.org or call 215.785.0100

Please visit the Calamari Sisters at www.thecalamarisisters.com 

Photos: Courtesy The Calamari Sisters website