Don’t assume you have seen the worst before experiencing the latest revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, a production so stillborn I defy God himself to resurrect it. The Australian director Gale Edwards, aiming the gospel story at young audiences, comes up with part Godspell, part Middle East Side Story. The time is mainly today, plus some Fascist Italy, nastily blood-smeared no-period Jews, East Village kids as apostles, and a Las Vegas Herod. The set is the abandoned pillars of a bridge connected by a freight elevator carrying actors up and down, while others keep climbing those pillars.
Judas is a spike-haired, black-leather blond, Mary Magdalene a vaguely biblical trollop, and Jesus a sandaled Armani Exchange model. As Glenn Carter plays him, he is practicing for a more important appearance at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Only Tony Vincent’s Judas shows both energy and vocal prowess, but why does he come back after hanging himself? Could the Almighty have mistaken him for Jesus? As Herod, Paul Kandel is a decrepit Miss America Pageant host reduced to camping it up in Vegas; Siegfried and Roy would consider his act de trop.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s orchestrations of his own music, staggering between ear-blasting and barely audible, attest to advanced self-hatred. Anthony Van Laast’s choreography tries to be inconspicuous, but unfortunately does not succeed. Except for torturing Jesus more than necessary, and having him repeatedly roll across the floor like a human mop, surrounded by paparazzi and redundantly projected onto a giant screen, Gale Edwards’s direction contributes little. The set designer’s chief invention is a crucifix made of enough light bulbs to blind an entire audience to all but the worthlessness of this revival.