by Brigid Ambuul
June 19, 2018
Patio Playhouse has kicked off their 2018 Summer Season at Kit Carson Amphitheater with the epic musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The story, which tells of the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, primarily from the perspective of a disillusioned Judas, offers a glimpse into the humanity of history’s most well-known figures. However, rather than drag in the dusty wake of an oft-told tale, Patio’s “Superstar” breathes new life into the biblical narrative.
While “Superstar” might already break conventions with its driving rock-centric score, Patio’s production offers more non-tradition in its casting choices. At the inception of the show, as the music shifted to a beat-driven melody leading into the show’s first song (“Heaven on Their Minds”), I was pleasantly surprised to hear a strong female voice cut the air in the role of Judas Iscariot. Alyssa Guttendorf continued to amaze me throughout the show as she played the role of Jesus’ betrayer with a bitterness and moving passion which, in my mind, added an entirely new layer to the tragedy of the Passion.
It seemed that, as the show moved on, I was fated to receive countless other pleasant surprises”” particularly in hearing the first notes of Jesus Christ’s opening solo (quite a sentence, huh?). Mario Arambula-Damian, in the show’s titular role, proved himself as, well, a superstar. I’d gone into the performance unaware of the challenging nature of the music, but Arambula-Damian handled the extensive vocal requirements- as well as the various demands attached to depicting God’s Son onstage- with divine control and affecting emotion. Other standouts in the cast include Adriana Zuniga-Williams as Mary Magdalene, whose melodious voice is an attention-grabber no matter the scene, and Wyatt Rhinehart in the role of Peter, another show-stopping singer who manages to wow the crowd in only a few bars of music. Together, their heart-rending performance of “Could We Start Again Please,” in which Mary and Peter lament the suffering of their beloved Jesus, made for my favorite part of the show.
Though I have done my best to present to you some of the aspects of the show which make it enjoyable, I will venture to tell readers not to rely on the written word for a full depiction of the show. Without seeing it for yourself, you’ll miss the details which set it apart from other incarnations of the story of Christ’s Passion”” the uses of light and color in the simple and beautiful set design which bring new emotion to scenes, the nuances in character which the actors build throughout the show, the tonal shifts even in the smallest details of choreography. In combining all of these things to create an engaging peace of theater, Patio Playhouse has also cast a new and epic light on an old story in a production that you must see to experience.