Each year in the run-up to
It's a challenge to fit the show's cast of 25 into Breakthrough's intimate space, but director Wade Hair navigates those staging hurdles nicely. Where the show falters are in areas shared by small community theaters everywhere: A wide range of acting ability in the cast and balancing sound with recorded music tracks.
The show is lifted, though, by clever costumes (coordinated by Josette Gillette), striking visuals and more than a few breakout performances — not the least of which is by Hair himself. He takes on the uber-campy role of King Herod and skips through his comic song with just the right combination of glee and petulance.
That's a light moment in what is otherwise serious subject matter. The musical's story line tells of the last week of Jesus' life and ends with the Crucifixion. It doesn't lighten the story any that the actors don't always seem to appreciate the irony or whimsy scattered throughout
The role of Jesus is vocally demanding, calling for rocklike belting, impossibly high tenor notes and tender lyricism. Tony Flaherty excels at all three, though in his quieter moments he's overpowered by that recorded music. He could dig deeper to find Jesus' anger at the money changers in the temple — or at God himself in "Gethsemane" — but his voice is his redemption.
In other key roles, A.C. James has the requisite shockingly low bass for high priest Caiaphas, Cara Fullum is sweeter than the usual Mary Magdalene, and Rob Del Medico ably shows Pilate descend from puzzlement at his peculiar dream to fury at Jesus.
Hair lets Judas, played by Justin Scarlat, unravel too quickly. And that, coupled with a raspy shouting quality in Scarlat's singing, unfortunately makes Judas less a complicated object of pity and more a flat-out villain.
As the production's musical director, Scarlat gets an effective blended sound out of the large ensemble.
Hair also uses the ensemble well to create effective theatrical moments: the adoring crowd waving branches in slow motion during "Hosanna," friends and foes pressed anxiously against the bars of Jesus' cell as Roman guards beat him, Jesus slumped under the weight of his cross with blood running down his back.
There's power in images such as those any time of year.
• What: Breakthrough Theatre production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical
• Length: 1:50, including intermission
• Where: Breakthrough Theatre, 419A W. Fairbanks Ave.,
• When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and Mondays; 3 p.m. Sundays
• Tickets: $20; $18 seniors; $15 students; $10 Mondays