The Muny opens its 99th season as the as America's largest outdoor theatre. 11,000 seats in the beautiful Forest Park on the site of the 1904 Worlds Fair. The stage set between two oak trees has welcomed award winners and Broadway legends.
This production of Jesus Christ Superstar was powerful and timely. The set (Paul Tate Depoo III) was beautiful. The choreography (Jon Rua) was fresh and unique, an audience member called it 'not your average Broadway Jazz Square'. Costumes (Tristan Raines) looked beautiful all the way to the free seats.
One of the most powerful scenes I have witnessed in a long time was during 'Hosanna'. The backdrop video screen changed from propaganda warnings of 'Rome is Watching' and 'Render unto Cesar' to a live feed from a camera. Jesus (Bryce Ryness) begins to preach and the camera rounds so that the audience is in the shot. The effect was a stunning shot where it looked like Rockstar Jesus was preaching to the 11,000 in the audience. Breathtaking is the only word to describe that scene. The visuals of the protest and police actions, so common in St Louis in recent years, were impressive and touching.
Other audience favorite scenes were the 70s game show inspired 'King Harold's Song', 'Everything's Alright' with the power trio of Ciara Renee (Mary Magdalene), Ryness, and Constantine Maroulis (Judas), and 'Superstar' which had the audience holding on to every word.
I think my second-grade teacher would be ashamed of the amount of applause I have towards Judas. His voice flowed out of the theatre and filled the entire park. Maroulis made the character his own and had the audience on the edge of their seats watching the disciple's fall and betrayal. Duets between Ryness and Maroulis were full of power and passion. Other standouts of the cast were Christopher Sieber (King Herod), and Nicholas Ward (Caiaphas).
This production told a story that has been told many times in a fresh and intellectual way. One regret is that it could only run for one week. That, I guess is the downfall of 'Muny Magic'. Visit muny.org for information on future show details and ticketing.