The cast of Big Apple Production's Jesus Christ Superstar, less the 12-piece band, gear up to rock the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage May 17-18. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Review: Vernon performance lends age-old story new life

Big Apple Productions presents Jesus Christ Superstar May 17-18

This isn’t your typical church music singing the accolades of Jesus Christ.

With a chorus of 75 singers and more principals than you can shake a stick at, Big Apple Productions’ telling of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar is so much more.

Stage lights are dim to brew palpable excitement as the Goliath chorus finds its way to the stage.

Enter Judy Rose, the vocal powerhouse whose voice pierces the air as she embodies disciple and one of the original 12 apostles Judas Iscariot.

The story rapidly unfolds as Judas’ malcontent boils over. Judas has fallen out of the pack and believes Jesus’ rule as ‘King of the Jews’ has become more harmful than helpful.

Jesus Christ Superstar holds true to its rock opera, or as director, Melina Schein likes to call it rock symphony, status and features all the bells and whistles you would expect from a Judas Priest concert. Backed by a stellar 10-piece band that didn’t miss a beat, Big Apple Productions plays it strong, and they play it loud.

A heavily bearded Jesus Christ drifts onto the stage. While it wasn’t specifically for the performance, Vernon actor and friendly-face Paul Rossetti grew his facial forest just in time for Jesus Christ Superstar. If his hearty hedge didn’t tell you who Rossetti is, his stage presence certainly will.

Rossetti boasts the most rocking voice of the principals with a shriek reminiscent of Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden as he nails those high notes with panache.

Jesus has the rock ‘n’ roll sound in his palm, Judas’ power sends goosebumps up the arms and, as one would expect from Mary Magdalene, Charlotte Backman’s smooth tones tie it all together.

Craig Howard as Pontius Pilate belows his rumbling tones to add the much needed, and expertly delivered, lower end of the musical spectrum.

However, no one is as adept at embodying a vast array of characters on the Vernon stage as Brian (Jack Nicholson) Martin. From his role as Caiaphas in Webber’s epic to Dr. Frank N. Furter in the Rocky Horror Show to Amos Hart in Chicago, Martin can do it all.

Jesus Christ Superstar loosely follows Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final week. Told from the perspective of Judas, it follows Jewish High Priest Caiaphas’ plot to have the ‘King of the Jews’ murdered with the help of a despondent Judas.

It’s based on a story that has been told thousands of times over thousands of years, yet, under Schein’s wing, the age-old story was given new life.

Rossetti, who played the role of Jesus for the second-consecutive year, feels it’s more than just a performance: it’s a life-changing experience.

“I didn’t really know how important it would be to me until I was doing it. The week of performances, it took on a really profound meaning. It affected me deeply on a spiritual level,” Rossetti said. “Every rehearsal has been a real gift. I believe this performance is moving, and I think the audience feels that.”

This performance was but a dress rehearsal for the main course. Schein, Rose, Rossetti, Backman, Martin and the 80-some other performers set out to put on a musical in it’s truest form — a performance that is told entirely through music with just enough theatrics to keep eyes glued on the stage.

And, by golly, they did.

Related: Jesus Christ Superstar back, bigger and better

Jesus Christ Superstar, Big Apple Productions’ 15th full-scale musical, will overpower the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage May 17-18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $46.50 adults, $43 students and seniors and are available through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.