Review of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Little Years, Stratford Trip 2011

We just returned from a whirlwind trip to one of my favourite Ontario towns–Stratford. Home of the swans and ducks along the river, one of a kind shopping and of course, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
I saw two plays, Jesus Christ, Superstar and The Little Years. The first with hubby and my ten year old son and the latter on my own.
I knew some of the songs from JC- Superstar but didn’t really know how the material would be handled. My decison to see this play was clinched after viewing a preview of one of the songs sung by up and coming star Josh Young as Judas. The end of play where he confronts Jesus is quite powerful.
The play begins with Christ and a bunch of his followers making their way to Jerusalem. Much of the drama focuses on the relationship he has with Mary Magdalene and Judas, both characters are presented as having intense feelings for Jesus, while he is struggling with all that he has taken on and the demands of “role” which he says feel like ” 30 years instead of 3.”

We don’t witness miracles but rather a man who has achieved superstar status incurring pressures from his “groupies”, concern from the High Priests who worry that his claim of being King of the Jews will lead to anger from the Romans, and a conflicted reaction from his close friend Judas, who appears to love him intensely, while fearing the changes that are occuring with Christ’s rise to fame.

We all have a pretty good idea how it ends but it is interesting to watch this version of the events unfold. Much of the time Christ is confused and pre-occupied with a feeling that people around him don’t really care about him anymore. He tries to heal the sick and poor and then in despair shrieks at them to ” Heal Themselves”. This production has stand out performances from Brent Carver and Josh Young as well as an enjoyable comedic scene in the court of Herod.
My only disappointment was in the character of Mary Magadelen–the prostitute who loves Jesus just didn’t seem to generate any passion or enthusiam in her performance.

The choreography, excellent singing voices and interesting minimalist set make for an enjoyable theatre experience.If you were young when Jesus Christ Superstar. first came out as movie in 1970, you were surely feel waves of nostalgia as you listen to this rock opera.

The Little Years was quite an interesting play that gets the audience thinking about concepts of time, science, and art which are all played against the aging process of a woman who gets stuck when her innovative and intelligent thoughts are not nutured but rather repressed by her mother and the school system. Her sister-in-law tries to encourage her along the way and she lives her life in the shadow of her brother who is lauded throughout the play but never actually seen as a character.
By the end of the play, we realize that time is a very precious commodity and even if we don’t quite understand it–we must try to make the most of the time we have.
Stratford is a beautiful town that is easy to navigate and quite walkable. There are a myriad of lovely bed and breakfasts–many within easy walking distance of the theatres and the downtown area. Make sure to reserve well in advance as the accommodations and restaurants book up early during the busy summer season.

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