Many changes have been wrought upon the touring edition of “Jesus Christ Superstar” since it visited the Universal Amphitheatre in May 1993. Several featured players and virtually all of the chorus are new, and there are some new costumes and a new musical director. The overall production — on the road since December 1992 and scheduled to run through February — seems to have been cheapened to where the bus-and-truck company might now be traveling in Winnebagos and Aerostars. Yet in many significant ways this show is an improvement on the earlier version.
Main advantage is the relatively intimate size of the Pasadena Civic, which concentrates the action.
Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson, who both starred in the 1972 version and the ‘ 73 film, are still here, mounting what enthusiasm they can after 18 months on the road. In as Mary Magdalene for Leesa Richards (from the 1992 edition) is former Motown star Syreeta Wright, commendably not oversinging two of the show’s strongest numbers: “Everything’s Alright” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.”
Other notable newcomers include James O’Neil, up from understudy to replace rocker Dennis DeYoung (from the band Styx) as Pontius Pilate, and Lawrence Clayton as a very strong Simon, in for Steven X. Ward.
Returning principals include Laurent Giroux as the campy Herod (puzzlingly otherwise occupied during curtain calls at Tuesday’s opening), and David Bedella and Danny Zolli as Caiaphas and Annas.
Bedella’s menacing baritone and Zolli’s cackling tenor may remind “Star Trek” fans of a Klingon and Ferengi, respectively; in any event, they’re a pair almost worth their own show.