Hi, I'm Morgan! I'm a twenty-something theater critic and writer (which really just means I've been a Theater Kid my whole life but now I'm an adult) based somewhere between Baltimore and Washington DC. 

Hopefully, I can help you discover a new show or the next song that will be stuck in your head for weeks on end.

I've been a theater writer since 2016, and I'm so excited to share my passion for the arts with you! Happy reading!

Welcome to Intermission!

Me in front of the harbor that houses the Statue of Liberty in New York City

Review: Is Jesus Christ a Superstar?

First of all, let me say that while a general understanding of Jesus’ story and biblical history are not necessarily required to see “Jesus Christ Superstar,” they will definitely make for a more enjoyable viewing experience in this 50th Anniversary Tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Taking a more literal approach to the idea of a “rock opera,” director Timothy Sheader’s version of this Andrew Lloyd Weber production offers little in the way of plot explanation. With a run time of 90 minutes and no intermission, this all-music production gives a crash course on the rise, betrayal, and death of Jesus Christ. Of course, this takes a bit of interpretation, as much of the show is focused on energy and visual storytelling, rather than actual understanding of what’s happening on stage (the overpowering audio mixing didn’t help with lyric comprehension either).

That being said, Omar Lopez-Cepero stands out as Judas in the opening number “Heaven on Their Minds.” Full of rock wails and impressive notes, Lopez-Cepero manages to provide a decent set up for the rest of the show as he criticizes Jesus for his ways and teachings.

Omar Lopez-Cepero, Aaron LaVigne and the company of the North American Tour of "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Admittedly, I can’t say I would know right away that Jesus was Jesus if it weren’t for the glowing white spotlight on him for most of the show. Portrayed by Aaron LaVigne, Jesus comes across as a bit of a stoic rock diva, which is only exaggerated by the electric guitars and handheld microphones throughout the show. Thankfully, when combined with the energy of the ensemble and snappy choreography from Drew McOnie (particularly during the number “This Jesus Must Die”), it’s enough to be relatively entertaining to watch, even if you don’t know exactly what’s happening as far as plot.

In comparison to the edgy numbers in the rest of the show, Jenna Rubaii’s portrayal of Mary Magdalene is surprisingly soothing. Although she has the same punk flair as the rest of the cast, her big belt number “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” is one of the only songs in the show that follows a typical “musical theater” pattern.

Jenna Rubaii in the North American Tour of "Jesus Christ Superstar."

With a voice like a Disney princess, Rubaii’s anguish is palpable in this moment of calm. And Alvin Crawford brings a deep, impressive flair as the villainous Caiaphas, while Tyce Green gives off Renaissance energy as the (intentionally) screeching Annas.

But it is the technical elements of the production that are the true superstar. Lighting designer Lee Curran has created a masterpiece full of silhouettes and visual illusions. When combined with the cleverly designed two story set (thanks to scenic, hair, and costume designer Tom Scutt) that allows the ensemble to create tableaus, the effect is striking.

The company of the North American Tour of "Jesus Christ Superstar."

Overall, the production makes good on its promise to be authentically Andrew Lloyd Weber, and does deliver on its big, toe-tapping numbers “What’s the Buzz” and “Superstar.” But with hard-to-distinguish lyrics and a lack of plot explanation, this 50th anniversary production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is best saved for true theater fanatics and lovers of Andrew Lloyd Weber productions.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts through March 13, 2022. The production runs approximately 90 minutes with no intermission, and tickets can be purchased here.

Additional production photos can be found below. All photo credit to Matthew Murphy, Evan Zimmerman - MurphyMade; Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.