Melissa W. from DFW, Texas
HAND MICS RESTRICT ACTORS' PERFORMANCES; KUDOS TO PERFORMERS.
I attended the perforance at Fair Park in Dallas on April 16, 2022. I love JCS - like many who "grew up" with the album and/or the movie, the rock opera is part of my life's soundtrack.
So, I had a lot of hope when a friend invited me to see the "reimagined" JCS at Fair Park in Dallas on April 16, 2022. I am a Christian, and this was the third professional performance of JCS that I have attended, the first two with Ted Neely serving in the JCS role that is so familiar to many.
This is not easy for me to say, but the three-star rating for the performance that I saw in Dallas is rather generous. Sadly, the questionable production choices left me more distracted than enamoured.
At the performance that I attended, everyone except Peter (I believe) used a HAND MIC. A HAND mic! Wait - isn't this Dallas BROADWAY?! The key characters carried their hand mics and/or mic stands about on stage throughout the performance As a consequence of this production's non-hands-free audio direction, the "acting" by any of the primary characters was SERIOUSLY compromised and stifled. The cast even shared mics, with the exception of "Peter," who did not appear to be using a hand mic (scratching my head). And "Jesus's" mic "crapped out" 2-3 times. The stage at the Music Hall at Fair Park is not a particularly large stage. With one exception (the cross on which "Jesus" is crucified), the show's set is not dynamic and there are no scene changes, and for these reasons, the performers really needed an opportunity to move in more expressive ways.
Clearly, the cast was well-experienced and very talented-just read the program. But while holding his mic in his hand, Aaron LaVigne as "Jesus" seemed to be meandering and lost and without a lot of expression or heart--more like a high school production--until the crucifixion (when he did not have a hand mic because, well, his character was being crucified-his hands were not available!). And "Jesus" spent an inordinate amount of time putting on a guitar, taking it off, putting it on, taking it off, leaving us wondering whether it was just an odd prop - and it was - or whether he was going to use it. EVENTUALLY (mid-show) "Jesus" played guitar in a background role at one point and later performed a song while playing the guitar and singing into a mic on a mic stand. Hmmmm.
LaVigne is definitely talented, but I would have loved to have seen him "firing all cylinders" in his role--especially in the first third of the show. I think the fact that he was "handcuffed" to a hand mic throughout 98% of his performance--not his fault--really quashed his ability to "shine." Even the character of "Jesus" needs to be theatrical, and by that I do not mean that he has to perform like he is in "The Music Man," but rather that even "Jesus's" encounters with others could have been more expressive without a hand mic.
In my view, the only mic-in-hand performance that rose to a Broadway-level of excellence was that of Paul Louis Lessard as "King Herod." Lessard's performance was captivating, invigorating, and exuberant! Yes, Herod's song is high-octane, but many of the other performances would have benefited if they had been executed with Lessard's spunk and punch.
Now, lest you say, "Maybe they were dealing with an audio issue," two facts lead me to discredit that theory. First, "Peter" did not use a hand mic and "Jesus" did not use one while he was being crucified. Moreover, the ensemble used mics on micstands that bore lighted crosses, so the use of mic stands appears to have been "by design."
The choreography was quite "in unison," which rendered it high-schoolish and lackluster, but the performers (ensemble and other characters) executed their vocal and movement art with exceedingly high precision. Very nicely done, Team JCS -- kudos!
To be fair, I have not seen any other productions of the the "reimagined" JCS, so if all companies are following a singular production directive, my criticism spreads as broadly. However, in my somewhat lengthly life to date, I have seen dozens of Broadway (NYC) and touring performances, and I have NEVER seen something like the hand-mic conundrum of this production. It was exceedingly distracting, and my friend who also attended had the same complaints.
I surmise that the truly odd audio-related direction (i.e., no head mics) for this performance likely arose from a budgeting issue that did not allow for proper Broadway-level audio equipment. That is not the performers' fault or issue. To be clear, except for the "Jesus" mic glitches, the audio was well-engineered.
And, in all fairness, there were definite positives during the performance in spite of the audio-input (i.e., hand mic) distractions. 1. An excellent live band (although I did not love some of the synth substitutions, and their placement on set was also distracting). 2. Great talent - the cast and ensemble as a whole earn five stars, with gold "super" stars (sorry-just had to) going to Omar Lopez-Cepero ("Judas"), Jenna Rubaii ("Mary"), Alvin Crawford ("Caiaphas"), and Tommy Sherlock ("Pilate"). Again, had all of the performers been unleased from their hand-mic "handcuffs," we could have enjoyed so much more of their obvious talents.
The saving graces for this production are the JCS music and lyrics of Rice/Webber, which will carry any performance of JCS as long as the musical performers have skills. Indeed, I would be willing to pay and listen to talented people seated on barstools in front of mics on mic stands, you know, just LISTEN to the music and performances -- but that is not what we paid for in this instance.
In a nutshell, the production of the show was more Dallas and less Broadway, but that criticism does not extend to the cast of performers. Still JCS is a great show, and I would recommend any newcomer to JCS to see it at least once. And my criticism of the performance I saw will not deter me from seeing it again.