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Unplugged: The Collective Face brings contemporary edge to iconic ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

  • Cecilia Tran Arango as Mary Magdalene in The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” (Photo by Zachary Burke)
 

Unplugged: The Collective Face brings contemporary edge to iconic ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

20 Sep 2017

Hurricane Irma delayed the opening of The Collective Face Theatre Ensemble’s production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” but the musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber launched last weekend in a blaze of beauty, song, color and emotion.

Produced with Savannah State University’s Players by the Sea and under the direction of David I.L. Poole, “Jesus Christ Superstar” is one of the most ambitious and successful productions I have seen in many years of covering theater in Savannah.

The electric mood is set the moment one walks into the Kennedy Fine Arts Building at SSU, which houses the temporary art installation “Come As U R,” a celebration of expression.

Instead of the usual staid announcement about putting away cellphones, The Collective Face’s Dandy Barrett kicks off the show by asking for audience engagement.

The rock opera itself holds up better than I thought it would. I suppose you all know the story of Jesus Christ, but, just in case, spoilers ahead.

I don’t have space here to detail the contributions of all 20 cast members and the four musicians, but each brings another layer of talent and energy to the fast-paced show, which lasts just under two hours, including the intermission.

Michael Knowles’ Jesus is muscular, sensitive and charismatic. Knowles delivers his solos with a winning pop and soul sound, though his operatic training shines through.

In several strong numbers, Dan Finn conveys all the contradictions of the doomed Judas, even as Cecilia Tran Arango’s Mary Magdalene becomes increasingly enthralled by the man who is about to be betrayed and crucified.

The audience may know where the story is going, but Poole and his multiracial cast have some surprises in store — ones that give a powerful contemporary edge to the 1970 musical.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” continues at the Kennedy Fine Arts Building at SSU at 8 p.m. Sept. 22 and 23 and at 3 p.m. Sept. 24. Because of Irma, additional shows have been added at 8 p.m. Sept. 30 and at 3 p.m. Oct. 1.

Tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for seniors, students and active military. For reservations, call 912-232-0018.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email billdawers@comcast.net.

IF YOU GO

What: “Jesus Christ Superstar”

When: 8 p.m. Sept. 22, 23, 30; 3 p.m. Sept. 24, Oct. 1

Where: Kennedy Fine Arts Auditorium, Savannah State University

Cost: $25; $20 seniors, students, active military; $5 SSU students, faculty

Info: collectiveface.org or 912-232-0018

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