RTC's Jesus Christ Superstar Preview Thrills!


 On Ash Wednesday, February 26, The Rockaway Times and other lucky guests were invited to get a sneak peak of the Rockaway Theatre Company’s (RTC) production of the iconic 1970 rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Though this was just a concert preview, the ensemble of vocals didn’t just raise the roof and enthrall the audience, the raw energy and talent exhibited on the stage transported onlookers from the RTC’s theater in Fort Tilden to Broadway.

This rock/musical-theater hybrid gives truth to the wisdom that live performance is meant to be experienced, not just observed, and RTC’s score that bursts with life under the direction of musical director, Jeffrey Arsberger, provides a rich tapestry for the powerhouse of performers who wow you, not with just with their vocal range, but thirst to deliver a message.

As Jesus’ betrayer, Judas, Erech Holder-Hetmeyer’s soulful performance, vocal depth and body movements conjure up James Brown on the stage, immediately making him a standout as the modern day “Godfather of Soul.” Also, the depth of Holder-Hetmeyer’s enigmatic presence gives a righteous nod to actor, Chadwick Boseman, known for his portrayals of real-life historical figures, Jackie Robinson in “42,” James Brown in “Get on Up,” Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall,” and as superhero, Black Panther.

Carly McClain as Mary Magdalene interjects a sweet presence with her performance of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him.” Eric Kramer as the high priest, Caiaphas, will make you sit up, not just by his vocal artistry, but vehement passion in the role.

The solos performed were breathtaking, but to listen to the entire ensemble in unison blows you away. How director and choreographer, Gabrielle Mangano, found and majestically orchestrated this motley crew of performers, who range in ages, races, stature and experience is nothing short of amazing. At times the ensemble seems to be in turmoil at odds with their passion for Christ and his ordained fate. A testimony to society’s ambiguous crowd mentality—from adoring to mocking to crucifying—that demands you bear witness.

"Jesus Christ Superstar" spawned a 1970 album that birthed a new age in musical theatre, and just from the preview last Wednesday, RTC’s production does just that under the careful stewardship of Mangano. If this was just a preview, just imagine what the full production will resurrect. RTC’s mission is "Bringing Broadway to Rockaway," and with their production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," they achieve just that. Raising the bar for community theater and its unlimited possibilities. For those of you who observe the Lenten season, if there is one indulgence you can’t resist, seeing this production is it.

Show dates for the Rockaway Theatre Company’s Jesus Christ Superstar are March 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29 and April 3, 4, 5. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Ticket prices are adults $20/ seniors $15. For tickets and more info, visit: www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org  

 By Kami-Leigh Agard