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Posted at 10:10 AM ET, 03/19/2009

The Best of a 'Superstar'

By Stephanie Merry

What's the buzz on "Jesus Christ Superstar" at the Warner? The fact that it's starring Ted Neeley in the title role -- the same guy who took on the role of Jesus in the movie version more than 35 years ago (and a number of other versions since then). Anne and I checked out the performance on opening night this week. In the spirit of our Best Bets lists, here are some thoughts on the best moments the rock musical had to offer.

Best performance: Cristina Sass (Mary Magdalene) was the real stand-out for us. Her performance literally and figuratively hit all the right notes, between her strong vocals in "Everything's Alright" and her great rendition of "I Don't Know How to Love Him," which may have contained more emotion than all the other songs combined.

Best choreography: In a show that usually boasts some serious dancing, there seemed to be a lot of stationary musical numbers. Perplexing. Luckily one moving scene stood out. During Neeley's "The Temple," a group of lepers behind him writhed menacingly under a massive piece of fabric, with only their faces exposed. It was a bit disconcerting, but also totally mesmerizing.

Best personal touches: "Herod's Song" always serves as the brief comic relief from the drama, but Mark Baratelli, who performed this version, made it fresh. Baratelli turned Herod into an inebriated diva who delivered little barbs between vocals, such as "move please" as he elbowed his way through his harem between verses.

Most impressive range in a matter of measures: Caiaphas, portrayed by Darrel R. Whitney, has the kind of deep, sonorous voice that sounds like a cross between Barry White and Gregorian monks. Even so, he really knows how to turn on the falsetto, to the point that I did a double-take and wondered: is that really his voice? Or is there a woman standing behind him making those sounds?

Biggest shriek-inducing moment: It was clear after Tuesday night that Jesus has some serious groupies. As soon as he appeared on stage, illuminated in glorious white light, the ladies in the audience went wild. Of course, Neeley, 65, can't do this forever. Years of belting out heavy metal-style screams will eventually take a toll on the guy's voice.

So in light of this, what actor would you like to see play Jesus Christ? Let us know in the comments.

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | March 19, 2009; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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Comments

I would love to see Steve Balsamo do this role. He has remarkable talent and has done this role in England many times. He, like Neeley can hit those high notes wonderfully. He is attractive and unlike Neeley has youth on his side. Check out his video on youtube. Very moving and so much passion for the song and role.

Posted by: thelmalouise2 | March 23, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

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