Atlanta musicians like Jesus Christ Superstar. Ten years ago, a phalanx of folkies led by the Indigo Girls re-recorded the Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtrack. This time around, Rob Thompson, a singer/guitarist who owns Holy Mother Tattoo and co-owns the Little Five Points Cafe, has assembled a production of Jesus Christ Superstar with $3,000 of his own money. This version stars the Little Five Points Rockstar Orchestra, with Thompson as Judas Iscariot, Rock City Dropouts singer Jett Bryant as Jesus Christ, and singer/songwriter Naomi Lavender as Mary Magdalene.
"I got a full, real rock band cast," says Thompson. "Rock singers are much edgier. They're much more willing to scream their lungs out than a Broadway singer." The goal is to mount a successful two-day stand at the Five Spot, then get picked up by a local theater for a longer run. "Maybe around Christmastime next year, we get to do a full, monthlong run of it. It would be great for me because I would love to be Judas and playing guitar in it."
The orchestra's rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar premiered Thurs., Dec. 8, in front of an overflowing audience. The cast was outfitted in outlandish costumes -- Seraphix singer Will Lewellyn (as Pontius Pilate) wore gothic finery, and his three guardswomen displayed sexy fetish corsets. But it wasn't a parody of the original, however, and part of the fun of watching the orchestra members perform for two hours was seeing how committed they were to the night's success.
Most of the high points came during the first act: Bryant flipping over a pair of card tables, shouting out, "This should be a house of prayer," and the disciples swirling around him during "Everything's Alright." An orchestra conducted by Jack P. Miller of the Atlanta Concert Band produced an admirably raw and disheveled sound, and proved Thompson's opinion that Jesus Christ Superstar has more than a few good songs in it.
Unfortunately, technical difficulties marred the second act, particularly when a small microphone attached to Bryant's ear fell off, leading other cast members to hold a handheld mic for him while he was prostrated and tied to a massive cross. But what do you expect from a first performance? Look for a tighter, more inspiring show the second time around.
Jesus Christ Superstar plays again Thurs., Dec. 22, 7:30 p.m. $10. The Five Spot, 1123 Euclid Ave. 404-223-1100.
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