“JESUS CHRIST, JESUS CHRIST WHO ARE YOU WHAT HAVE YOU SACRIFICED…..”
The Answer to that Question is pretty simple…… Paramount Theater in Aurora, IL (northwest of Chicago) has successfully sacrificed their entire roof. Its been eradicated by every single performer in this production. Paramount has mounted one of the most indescribable productions I’ve yet to see this year. I’ve previously known Paramount to mount lavish productions and JCS stands there now alongside those productions that have come before.
This was an opening night experience that will remain unforgettable. As I sat patiently for the show to begin, gathering my thoughts about a different take on “America’s beloved Rock Opera.” If you don’t know by now, Paramount has made history with an all African- American Cast performing Lloyd Webber’s & Tim Rice’s Classic Rock Opera. Yes everybody was BLACK not just Judas, which was originated by Living Legend Ben Vereen which Vereen was also nominated for a Best featured Actor Tony Award for his performance on Broadway in 1971.
As the house lights dimmed and the orchestra begin to strike up the overture, after the first guitar riff that we all know, I instantly had a retrospect , nine year old me wearing; blue jeans, a Bugle Boy rugby shirt, and L.A. Gear light up shoes. I was standing there holding the brown record in my hands from my uncle’s old milk crate of vinyl LP’s. I opened my eyes and the curtain begin to rise and instantly, we were in Jerusalem. This classic story is one that is so familiar to us all. The last 7 days in the life of Jesus. Yes that’s surface but I saw beyond just the basic text. The real story is about JUDAS, a great friend that was jealous so he exposed his ‘friend” Jesus. How many times have we all been Judas? Growing up in church they used to tell you the part about how Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, yes this is true but have we ever looked at it from the point of Judas? Judas was simply upset and sold his friend out, some of us betray our “friends” on a daily basis, and sell them out for “LIKES” and “INSTA FAME.” I’m very familiar with the show as well as the back story where Tim Rice obtained these lyrics, however I’ve never thought of the story in this light until Saturday night.
Let’s start with MARY (Felicia Boswell) First let’s settle this. Costume designer Theresa Ham gave an ode to Beyoncé’s “Hold Up” Mary was in a golden yellow gaucho jumper complemented with a nude wedge heal and a wet and wavy tress for the hair Sister Magdalene served LEMONADE realness the entire performance. Mary was just being great and Judas was not here for it. Judgement the greatest poison of humanity especially in the “church.” Mary was simply just being genuine, and instead was judge and placed in a category where she didn’t belong. The way Ms. Boswell simply graced the stage and brought comfort to the savior. It’s a certainty to say that this role was second nature for Boswell because her real life exemplifies her simply serving the Savior.
My favorite character of the night is hands down the bubbly and bright KING HEROD (Avionce Hoyles) Between the slap stick laughing I was doing and the screaming out loud at the vocal acrobatics in his fun-loving number “Try It & See. ” I had to play close attention to catch the amusing one liners that Herod sung, as well as the costuming on the entire scene is yet again EPIC!
My Jesus, my Jesus!, (Evan Tyrone Martin) Paramount you got his one right! For years, it has been a vacuous debate about the race of Jesus! I’ll give you a hint if he was born in Bethlehem, chances are he has some pigmentation in his skin. To behold an African-American Jesus with dreadlocs, I was ready to throw both of my shoes to the stage, just because the Savior looked like me. Martin’s display of Jesus was for sure strong and brass, and not to mention his vocal quality. My mouth was just wide open the entire evening by the talent of this amazing cast.
Lorenzo Rush Jr. (CAIAPHAS) Who has become a Chicago favorite with his melodic charming baritone voice, it’s one that will be remembered in this production. It’s hard not to love him even though he’s playing the villain that is partially responsible for Jesus’ innocent death. PILATE (Rufus Bonds Jr.) who plays our other villain, the quaint style of Bonds Jr is one that is very unforgettable. I’ve never seen PILATE approached in this light of course he should be mean, this great SUPERSTAR was affecting his paycheck… However the twist to Pilate was. As The SUPERSTAR was being crucified PILATE gave him one more chance to confess, that He was not the king of the Jews. What enemy do you know gives you the chance to save yourself, and then show mercy upon you? Defiantly not something we learned in Sunday School. This story is usually told from one side not both.
JUDAS (Mykal Kilgore) walked his way into my heart, vocally, Kilgore just does it for me. I’ve been a fan for a while now, and I’m always amazed at what he does, and this was no different. The thought process put into Judas had to be formalized long before Kilgore arrived in Chicago. The approach for Kilgore’s Judas is beyond unexplainable, you must simply experience it. I make that statement only because I saw myself as Judas, not acting on the stage, but a real-life Judas. As I stated earlier how many of us have been Judas? Think about this, everyone is guilty of talking about someone behind their back. When a friend invites an unknown person to a social gathering we gather around and make preconceived thoughts before we even get to know who that person is. The message of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is simple, L-O-V-E, LOVE! Jesus loved everyone no matter who or what they are, regardless of how much they have, how popular they are, how many Instagram followers they have, or have many social media views they can get. HE LOVES us all. It’s us that play Judas every day of our lives. We screen shot private conversations, we cover up hate with fake hugs and shade. When underneath all it’s us who are simply a mess, and afraid of the unfamiliar.
Mr. Ron Kellum, thank you! Thank you for this amazing soul stirring experience, I walked away Saturday night different than when I came in. People who will witness this amazing experience will truly know and feel the power of God through the theater. This is truly a worship experience to the believer, and a life changing experience to the non- believer. Art changes minds, art changes lives. True art expressed from the heart reaches the heart. Cast and crew of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Paramount Theater in Aurora, IL through the run of this magnificent production. You will change minds, shift hearts and transform lives of everyone that will witness this soul stirring revival of an American classic beloved musical. Chicago run to see this amazing story before they close.
Paramount Theatre’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar is directed by Ron Kellum. The cast includes Evan Tyrone Martin (Jesus), Mykal Kilgore (Judas Iscariot), Felicia Boswell (Mary Magdalene), Rufus Bonds, Jr. (Pontius Pilate), Avionce Hoyles (King Herod/Annas) and Lorenzo Rush Jr. (Caiaphas) The ensemble features Stephen “Blu” Allen, Jos N. Banks, Ciera Dawn, Gilbert Domally, Candace C. Edwards, Jared D.M. Grant, Keirsten Hodgens, Mark J.P. Hood, Reneisha Jenkins, Micheal Lovette, Gabriel Mudd, Brian Nelson Jr., Renellè Nicole, Jaymes Osborne, Kafi Pierre, Jon Pierce, Travis Porchia, Camille Robinson, Alexis J. Roston and Jessica Brooke Seals.
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR IS CURRENTLY RUNNING THROUGH MAY 28, 2017 AT THE PARAMOUNT THEATER IN AURORA, IL FOR TICKET INFORMATION PLEASE VIST https://paramountaurora.com/events/jesus-christ-superstar/ or call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and two hours prior to evening performances.
Photo credit: Liz Lauren
Bring It Black – Staff Writer