REVIEW: “Superstar” cast makes the songs their own

Every single song in this show is being sung in a way you have never heard before. It starts when Evan Tyler Wilson as Judas launches into Heaven on Their Minds, and by the time Adam Sippola’s Jesus sings Poor Jerusalem, it becomes clear this approach is the rule and not the exception in this production. I would bet many an audience member was surprised at what song they were unexpectedly humming on their way home (for me it was Could We Start Again Please? because I was captivated by what Sara Wabrowetz’s Mary Magdalene was doing with the melody on the title phrase).

Photo by Andrew Benusa Photography

Photo by Andrew Benusa Photography

Wilson’s best moment as Judas comes in the last half of Judas’ Death with its powerful reprise of I Don’t Know How to Love Him. But his most memorable turn certainly comes when he shows up as a lounge singer from hell for the title tune, surrounded by biker chicks and the original hell’s angels. Then Danner brings both Judas and the audience back to harsh reality with the echoing sound of the hammers nailing Jesus to the cross. Superstar is indeed a rock opera, but at its heart it remains a traditional passion play, which both Danner’s staging and Sippola’s performance forcefully drive home.

Mary Magdalene (played by Sara Wabrowetz) watching as Jesus (Adam Sippola) sleeps during the iconic number 'I Don't Know How To Love Him.' (Photo by Andrew Benusa Photography)

Mary Magdalene (played by Sara Wabrowetz) watching as Jesus (Adam Sippola) sleeps during the iconic number ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him.’ (Photo by Andrew Benusa Photography)

I never thought that Rice and Webber’s stated intention of humanizing Jesus automatically translated into making Jesus human rather that divine, but clearly the show privileges Judas as the main character. This time around, however, Jesus takes it back in the endgame, in no small part due to Sippola, who frankly cuts a more charismatic figure as Jesus than most singers I have seen play the role. His Poor Jerusalem rejoinder to Simon is one of the show’s most powerful moments, as are his Gethsemane and the Crucifixion scene. Sippola’s ability to sing in character and establish a rapport with others on stage has always been one of his strong suits and if Danner suddenly clicked her heels three times and said this was no longer a musical, he would still make an effective Jesus.




Runs April 22 through May 3
Wednesday – Saturday @ 7:30pm
Sundays @ 2:00pm
April 25 & May 2 – Saturday matinees @ 2:00pm
April 29 – ASL Interpreted performance

Get them online, call 218.733.7555, or stop by in-person at the box office (located in the Duluth Depot building at 506 West Michigan Street).


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