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Posted: January 27, 2009 6:50 p.m.

Superstar GOSPEL a must-see

Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL, which promised to be a hit as the Alliance Theatre staged its largest production in 20 years, lived up to its name and then some. Louis St. Louis’ adaptation of the Oscar-nominated film tells one of the world’s most time-honored stories using a smart mix of modern theatrics, stirring gospel numbers, and a hint of 70’s flavor.

I have to admit I have tried on several occasions to watch the movie on television and I couldn’t get past the first five minutes. Now, I love a good 1970s-far-out-groovy flick, but the movie was just a little too ‘70s even for me. So I really excited to see a different take on the script.

This version of the play, which opened to a packed house Jan. 21, is directed by Susan V. Booth. Although I wasn’t prepared for the show to be a musical in the truest sense of the word (there was no dialogue at all), once I got my bearings, I was drawn in.

The rousing numbers by the congregation and the dancers provided a vibrant backdrop to the story which focused on Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene. The interaction between Darius de Haas’ Jesus and Darryl Williams’ sneaker-wearing Judas highlighted the very human and often frustrating relationship between the men. Nicole Long’s performance as Mary Magdalene, which showed Mary’s love for Jesus, also highlighted his human side.

Worthy of an honorable mention was Destan Owen’s portrayal of Pilate. His performance of "Trial by Pilate" almost brought me tears as the king wrestled with his decision to crucify Jesus.

While my favorite number was "Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem," which captured the essence of the ‘70s without being kitschy and trite, the highlight of the evening was Haas’ performance of "Gethsemane," a number which depicted Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Although Haas’ performance was moving, I couldn’t help but compare it to James Caviezel’s version in the "Passion of The Christ," which left me sobbing uncontrollably in my seat and forever changed my perception of that scene. But Haas’ performance fell only shy of my admittedly high expectation.

Overall, Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL is a must-see masterpiece. If you miss it this go-around, you may get a chance to enjoy it again — after a long run on Broadway.

Jesus Christ Superstar GOSPEL runs through Feb. 22 at the Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree Street in Atlanta. Tickets run from $35 to $75. For more information, call (404) 733-5000 or go to www.alliancetheatre.org.

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