Chantilly High School
The body and the blood, Judas's betrayal, Christ's crucifixion, and… electric guitar? In Hayfield Secondary School's impressive interpretation of "Jesus Christ Superstar", all four of these elements shone with blinding radiance. From the tortured inner conflict of Judas to the ruthless flogging of Jesus, the Hayfield Dramahawks took on Andrew Lloyd Webber's dark, rock and roll retelling of the Holy Week with maturity and, quite frankly, passion.
Jesus Christ Superstar opened on Broadway in 1971, receiving five Tony nominations and much critical acclaim. Known for its nearly impossible vocal arrangement and extremely emotional characters, the ‘70s rock musical remains popular nearly 50 years later.
Based loosely on Christ's last week on earth, the show centers around Judas Iscariot's conflicted betrayal of Jesus. Jesus is presented as a "Superstar" akin to rock stars like John Lennon or Freddie Mercury, whose followers (read: fan girls) have gone out of control. This crazed fanaticism is represented well by Zach Collison and Abby Heffner's choreography and executed skillfully by a talented and energetic ensemble. In "What's the Buzz", a buoyant crowd cheered on Jesus with religious fervor; in "Trial Before Pilate", an angry mob shouted, "crucify him!" with awesome gall.
If one is to put on "Jesus Christ Superstar", one needs a Jesus. The role requires a sky-shattering range, powerful emotional control, and most of all, endurance. From opening to close, Max von Kolnitz embodied all these aspects of the character with a talent rarely seen on a high school stage. Jesus' counterpart, Judas (Jordan Rockhill) is equally as challenging a role. Although Judas is traditionally played by men, Rockhill made the role her own and did just as her name suggests - rocked it. Not only did she possess vocals reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, her performance of "Judas's Death" evinced deep sympathy from within me. Both leads set an example to the rest of the high school theatre community as to what it means to perform musical theatre.
Although the show focuses primarily on Jesus and Judas, the supporting and ensemble members of the cast contribute largely to a successful performance. Standout performers include Brynn Spradlin (Pontius Pilate) whose stage presence in "Trial Before Pilate" set Spradlin as an equally powerful performer to both leads. With hand wringing and pained enumeration of Jesus's whipping, Spradlin enhanced the quality of the performance. Another performer, Patricia Villarroel Narvaez (Annas), who portrayed one of the Pharisees, defined her character with powerful rock vocals and expressive acrimony.
Both lead and supporting actors were assisted by the professional, beautiful technical teams. Whether it was the precise timing of the stage manager in coordinating the flashing light and cracking sound cues for the flogging scene, the multi-leveled set which was used in its entirety, the lights that divided Judas and Jesus into red and blue, or the changing ensemble costumes from light to dark, each technical element contributed to a cohesive and well thought out thematic image throughout the performance.
Although it may be irreverent to suggest that this performance contained some form of divine power, I will do so anyways. This cast and crew put on a phenomenal performance of one of the most difficult musicals ever written and made me proud to be a part of this high school theatre community. Thank you, Hayfield Dramahawks, and congratulations!
West Springfield High School
What's the buzz over at Hayfield Secondary School? It's the Hayfield Dramahawks' rockin' performance of "Jesus Christ Superstar!"
"Jesus Christ Superstar," with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, is a rock musical that tells the story of Jesus's final days. The show follows Judas Iscariot as he struggles to decide whether to betray Jesus and have him arrested to stop him from losing control of his followers. Meanwhile, Jesus struggles to help everyone he possibly can and confronts his fear of dying for his cause.
Hayfield's "Jesus Christ Superstar" is led by the incredible Max von Kolnitz as Jesus. The sheer amount of emotion von Kolnitz was able to convey through his eyes alone had the entire audience holding its breath. His physicality, strong voice, and true understanding of his character's motivations, fears, and emotions created an incredibly sympathetic character and strong protagonist. Particularly, his number "Gethsemane," where he asked God why he must die, was a fantastically intimate and dramatic experience in which the audience was able to gain a real understanding of Jesus's inner torment through von Kolnitz's portrayal of the character.
Starring against von Kolnitz is Jordan Rockhill as Judas Iscariot. Rockhill's high energy and constant involvement in the story (even when she was in the background) always made her interesting to watch and brought a lot of depth to her character that is not always shown in other depictions of Judas. Her dynamic with Jesus illustrated their external conflict, as well as her own internal conflict as she debated on whether to turn Jesus in. Her performance in "Judas's Death" was particularly stunning as the audience got a clear picture of Judas's guilt and breakdown after her betrayal of Jesus.
Jesus Christ Superstar's set, designed by Brynn Spradlin, heightened the amazing show by lending itself to amazing stage pictures. Its symmetrical, multi-level design helped choreographers Abby Heffner and Zack Collison to tell the story through movement and symbolism. For instance, during scenes led by the Priests, one actor was placed on each raised level of the set, showing how the Priests were both literally and figuratively above everyone else. Additionally, by opening the second act with a tableau recreation of da Vinci's The Last Supper on the lowest level of the set, Jesus's humility was demonstrated, as he was on the ground among his Apostles instead of above them on a higher set level.
The lighting in Hayfield's production also heightened the show by creating different moods and symbolism. The colors of the lights always held significance – they glowed blue for Jesus's moments and red when Judas was in focus. One incredible use of lighting was at the very end of the show when Jesus was crucified – he was hung on the uppermost level of the set against a grid of concert lights when the stage blacked out and the grid lights glowed in the shape of a cross. As Jesus said his dying words, the cross glowed so bright that some of the audience had to look away. However, those who continued to stare at the lights left the theater with the shape of a cross etched into their vision. This image was the culminating moment of the show and held an incredible amount of power and emotion.
Fast-paced and intense, Hayfield's production of Jesus Christ Superstar heavily impacted the audience through its story of faith, betrayal, and trying desperately to do what is right. The Hayfield Dramahawks truly are superstars!