Staying faithful

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Shadowbox Cabaret is known for crafting some wild and crazy productions, but with Jesus Christ Superstar, the group may be taking their most radical approach to a piece yet -- totally straight.

Keeping up the controversial politics of the original Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice production, Superstar focuses heavily on the last week of regular guy Jesus' life, as well as his relationships with Judas and Mary Magdalene. It's an intriguing work that's made stranger by the Shadowbox troupe mounting the production.

J.T. Walker III, who previous shined as Dr. Prospero in the absurdly hilarious Return to the Forbidden Planet, plays Jesus as a more subdued, questioning spiritual leader. He's less divine, and embodies Rice's infamous quote, being "simply the right man at the right time at the right place."

Similarly, Brandon Anderson shines as a sympathetic Judas, especially during his rousing rendition of "Superstar."

But it's the women who really rule this production, especially Stacie Boord as Mary. While the guys sing the more rocking numbers, Boord gets the ballads, including "I Don't Know How to Love Him," a song that became a top-20 hit in the 1970s. A double threat, Boord is also one of the featured dancers, a foursome that steals the production when they're on stage.

Stopping the show is Edelyn Parker as King Herod, whose sole song -- appropriately called "King Herod's Song" -- is a vaudevillian spectacle that feels closer to typical Shadowbox. It's hilarious, a little wacky and completely inappropriate for the circumstances, which is exactly the moment we were all waiting for.

With only a handful of featured performers among a cast of 21, the ensemble occasionally gets the show in trouble, when they're too expressive and distract from the main action. It's hard to follow Jesus during "The Last Supper" when the apostles are all getting drunk in the background.

Nevertheless, the troupe does the show proud, and it's a nice change of pace from their usual shenanigans.