Porthouse rocks “Jesus Christ Superstar”

Bethany Early

This is not Terri Kent’s first time directing “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Her previous directing of the rock opera was 35 years ago in her parents’ living room.

“I played Mary . and Jesus,” Kent joked in her opening remarks at last Friday’s opening night production of the show at Porthouse Theatre.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” runs through Aug. 13

Curtain times are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Two productions run on the final day (2 p.m. and 8 p.m.)

Kent, who is also the artistic director at Porthouse, described “Jesus Christ Superstar” as rock ‘n’ roll, edgy, powerful and profound. She said it’s a show she has always dreamed of doing.

“It makes people want to stand up and cheer,” Kent said.

Kent said people found the musical “audacious” when it first came out in the 1970s. The show has been staged in more than 15 countries but was banned in South Africa where it was declared “irreligious,” according to a fact sheet from Friday’s show.

The show, with a musical score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, tells the story of the last seven days of Jesus’ life, ending with the crucifixion. It portrays Jesus as having human qualities and faults.

“I suppose it was audacious, but it’s incredible at the same time,” Kent said.

The show is the final and largest of three productions during Porthouse Theatre’s 2006 Superstar season. The theater typically begins each season with a smaller musical, then performs a non-musical -usually a comedy – for its second production and ends the season with a large musical.

In selecting this season’s shows, Kent said her biggest concern was finding the right person to play Jesus because his character is so pivotal. Fortunately, she said she found the “perfect, perfect person” in Will North Cleckler.

Cleckler, from New York City, received his Master of Fine Arts in acting from the University of Alabama.

Gen Woods, a volunteer usher at Porthouse Friday evening, described the show as overwhelming.

“It’s really big-time, the casting and voices – wow,” Woods said. “The high notes were high, and the bass notes were bass.”

Kent State students in Jesus Christ Superstar:

The show also features performances by numerous Kent State students, including Anya Absten (ensemble), Jessica Amara Beaudry (ensemble), Patrick J. Clement (apostle), Justin Gentry (Peter), Dana Joy Glaus (ensemble), Daniel Grgic (apostle), Alisa Ledyard (ensemble), John M. Moauro (apostle), Marissa Montigney (ensemble), Allison Nacht (ensemble), Tim O’Loughlin (apostle), Christopher M. Richards (Priest #1), Jessica Rubin (ensemble) and Ali Schondel (ensemble).

She said it’s interesting because there is no dialogue, only song lyrics, and it’s novel to see performed because it’s a Biblical story people have heard “since first grade.”

Kent has dedicated her work this summer season in memory of Skip Martin, a former college boyfriend who died in January.

Kent described Martin as a brilliant actor with an incredible mind.

“I wanted people to know his life made a difference,” she said. “He taught me how to be an artist.”

Porthouse Theatre pledged to donate $4 from every full-price ticket sold during the past “Jesus Christ Superstar” opening weekend to the King Kennedy Community Center. The theater estimates almost $2,400 from adult single ticket sales this past weekend will be donated.

In addition, Porthouse is also donating 10 percent of its concession sales over the course of the entire season.

Effie Tsengas, the public relations and marketing director for Porthouse Theatre, said Porthouse, because of its informality, provides an opportunity to ease people into theater who may otherwise feel uncomfortable in a theater setting.

Contact Blossom and Porthouse reporter Bethany Early at [email protected].