Hosanna Hey, "Jesus Christ Superstar" can’t be missed!

Photo: Normand Brassard

Jesus (Michel Blackburn)’s followers wave palm branches and signs as they sing “Hosanna” when he enters Jerusalem during the QAC’s production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" at Chalmers-Wesley United Church on April 14. Shows continue to April 21.

   Jesus is my drug of choice!” a protest sign reads at yet another fantastic Quebec Art Company (QAC) production. Jesus Christ Superstar is a must-see production featuring a very talented and very large cast. 

   Directed by Peter Black with musical direction by Bobby Fielding, a cast of 35 actors, some of whom play multiple roles, and a crew of more than 30, including a jazz band and an organist, Jesus Christ Superstar is a show that should not be missed by anyone in Quebec.

   Managing over 60 personalities could cause a breakdown for many directors. “Breakdown” is exactly how Black supported this large group, explaining that the most efficient way to manage everyone’s time was to “break down” 
the cast into small groups. The cast was able to take advantage of the large rehearsal space at Holland School before moving into Chalmers-Wesley United Church in April for rehearsals and performances. Black added that “without Sharon MacLeod and then Marc Lepitre doing the groundwork as production managers, the project would never have taken off.”

   Although Black does not like to use the term “understudy,” he had an embarrassment of riches during the audition process. The role of Mary Magdalene is played by Zita Bombardier-Touret, except for the April 14 and 19 performances when Vanessa Bergeron takes the role.

   Just before opening night on April 12, Christian Desbiens, who plays the role of Simon Zealotes, wasn’t feeling well, so Sam Farley jumped in at the last minute to sing the role. According to Black, Farley took the part and flew with it. Farley was offered another performance as a way to express the cast’s gratitude and showcase his talent. Black says this sharing of roles has been a team-building experience. Black credits a lot of the success to the chemistry of the cast and crew. “They just gel. I’ve never seen such a great group of people.” 

   A weakness that plagues community theatre everywhere is the constant search for talent, especially male talent. The QAC’s Jesus Christ Superstar has somehow escaped that fate. Every voice in the cast comes through strong and crystal clear. During the singing of “Make Us Well” by a group of lepers, one could easily believe that Arcade Fire had been brought in to sing.

   Even intermission is magical when Marc d’Anjou plays the church’s magnificent pipe organ. 

   Martin Trager is a hoot as King Herod, somehow changing water into wine before the eyes of the amazed audience. 
Michel Blackburn (Jesus) and Julian Dawson (Judas) both give powerful, dramatic performances. 

   There were many other magnificent solo performances, but space does not permit a shout-out for each of them. You just have to come and see it!

   The song “Hosanna” was, in this reviewer’s opinion anyway, leagues better than any professionally produced version out there.

   Bring your tissues when Bombardier-Touret sings “Could we start again, please” with J.P. Chartier, in the role of Peter, accompanied by members of the chorus. Try not to think too much about what is going on in Mary’s soul when she sings the word “please.” We have all had those moments where we want to go back and begin again. 

   Bombardier-Touret captures that powerful emotion in one word, “please,” time and time again.

   The choreography of the dazzling ensemble numbers is by the multi-talented Bombardier-Touret and Brigitte Méthôt, who is also one of the Soul Sisters. 

   Black also gives credit to musical director Bobby Fielding, saying, “What Bobby has done is truly stunning.” QAC’s Jesus Christ Superstar is truly stunning. If you haven’t seen this production yet, do not miss it. There are still three more shows on April 19, 20 and 21 at Chalmers-Wesley United Church (78 Rue Ste-Ursule in Old Quebec). 

   Tickets for the remaining performances are SOLD OUT, but if you put your name on the waiting list at [email protected], indicating how many tickets you are requesting and for which dates, you just might be able to squeeze in before the doors close on the last performance. 

(Disclosure: Jesus Christ Superstar director Peter Black and cast member Shirley Nadeau are also QCT journalists.) 
Judas (Julian Dawson, centre) sings with the Soul Sisters (front) and the angels (back) as they ask the musical question: “Jesus Christ! Who are you? What have you sacrificed?” during Jesus Christ Superstar at Chalmers-Wesley United Church on April 14.  (Photo by Normand Brassard)
The cast of Jesus Christ Superstar gather onstage for curtain calls on April 14. In the centre are Zita Bombardier-Touret (Mary), Michel Blackburn (Jesus) and Julian Dawson (Judas).  (Photo by Normand Brassard)