Jesus Christ Superstar Review

ORLANDO — To say that the Little Radical Theatrics production of Jesus Christ Superstar is a revelation sounds like a bad pun, but it’s not. Yes, this is the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, all the songs are there in the correct order, and the production has a suitably large cast of exceptionally talented singers and actors.

Just the same, anyone attending this production — now being performed in the Mandell Studio Theater at Orlando Shakes — is likely to be surprised by it — as I certainly was — since it far transcends what you might expect from a JCS production.

Let’s put it this way: a lot of theater companies produce well-known musicals to be reverent. Find good singers, ensure they’re in harmonious on those show stopping numbers, maybe have some nice costumes. It’s so respectful of what the original playwright and composer wanted.

This isn’t one of those production. Little Radical Theatrics has delivered a Jesus Christ Superstar that’s as much a commentary on our current culture wars as a traditional musical can be. And the show is strikingly original and captivating as a result.

How Does This Production Treat Jesus Christ Superstar?

It’s quite fitting that Little Radical Theatrics is producing this show at Orlando Shakes, which has staged lots of Shakespeare’s classic dramas and comedies that were wildly creative, such as shifting the production away from Shakespeare’s time to a modern setting. Often times the results can feel, as I noted earlier, like a revelation, an entirely fresh look at a play you thought was highly familiar.

This Jesus Christ Superstar exceeded my expectations for a show I’d seen performed live numerous times. Why? Delivered by a knockout cast under the direction of Travis Eaton, it feels like a story that, to use something of a cliche, has been ripped from the headlines. And this production has an astonishing degree of teeth as a result.

First, the play has a mostly female cast. That includes the lead roles of Jesus, played by Rachel Geib, and Judas, performed by Samantha Grace Sostak. And with the aid of a video screen at the back of the stage, our “ripped from the headlines” culture war issues are there, from the Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to ban abortion to the current efforts to ban or restrict drag shows. In this production, Jesus and his followers are tossed smack into 2023 politics.

There are nods to these issues in plenty of ways. When Jesus and Mary Magdalene (played by Scarlett Barreto) lie down together, it’s on a rainbow blanket. When Caiaphas, the high priest of Israel, assembles the Pharisees and priests to express fears about Jesus’s followers, they become our Supreme Court.

And among the few roles played by men, we get a fantastic chorus — of drag queens, spectacularly decked out in their finest.

You get the idea. Jesus Christ Superstar as envisioned by the Little Radical Theatrics is a rallying cry for anyone who feels like the culture wars have been as cruel as they are discriminatory. This is their show.

How Does The Political Commentary Impact The Music?

As I noted, not a single line has been changed in Webber’s original work, and one thing I really appreciated about this production — which was exceptionally funny in a sly way, and at moments that Webber purists might raise an eyebrow about — is that the social commentary is never intrusive. It’s there, but so is Webber’s enchanting songs. You can embrace it or ignore it.

And what about Webber purists? I can’t imagine any of them would object to this production, since the cast is so immensely talented that they bring Webber’s songs passionately to life.

There are so many highlights to this show, including the vaudeville-style King Herod’s Song, which has some snappy choreography and a hilarious performance by Samuel Pagan Jr. as the King; some of the tender moments between Jesus and Mary as she sings “Everything’s Alright”; and the soaring finale as the ghost of Judas rises as Jesus is being crucified, to ask if this truly was part of a divine plan and if Jesus really is a “Superstar.” Sostak’s vocals here are pretty much guaranteed to send chills up and down your spine.

The casting would be hard to improve upon: Geib runs an astonishing gamut of emotions, from one who rallies her supporters to the victim of a brutal beating ordered by Pilate to pacify a bloodthirsty mob. Sostak’s smart but ruthless Judas, Jodi Saladino’s icy Caiaphas and Barreto’s vulnerable Mary are all spot on, but the entire chorus is pure manna from Heaven.

Ok, enough puns. Just go see it. It truly is a Jesus Christ Superstar for 2023. And it would be sinful to miss it.

Where Can I see This Production of Jesus Christ Superstar?

The Little Radical Theatrics production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Jesus Christ Superstar is being performed at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St. in Loch Haven Park. Upcoming shows are on Friday March 31 at 8 p.m., Saturday April 1 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 2 at 3 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting the online box office.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at

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