The Garden Theater, Winter Garden, FL
by Carl F. Gauze
Written by John-Michael Tebelak
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Joseph C. Walsh
Musical Direction by Chris Endsley
Starring Eddie Ortega</b>
Welcome to the New Testament, but with better lighting. Christian or infidel, we’ve all heard of Jesus Christ (Ortega), Son of God and possibly the best marketing strategist of all time. We meet him and his followers on a spare stage where they bring the show to life with the rousing “Tower of Babel.” It’s an introduction by Socrates and Thomas Aquinas, L. Ron Hubbard and few other free thinkers who just barely dodged the hangman’s noose over the years. But all these philosopher’s pale compared to JC himself. His doctrines were clear, forthright and generally ignored by most of his subsequent followers, although they loved his smiting work. This show appeared as a contrast to the wildly popular Jesus Christ Superstar, a show that took heat for showing Judas Iscariot in a positive light. But there’s no salvation with out crucifixion tonight, so someone had to do the dirty deed.
This show is relatively unencumbered by much in the way of plot, but it drips music and energy. Ortega’s stentorian voice carried authority and quotability, and his acrobatics confirm him as half divine. One quirk about this show is all the actors excepting JC and Judas use their actual names, making the mapping to historical figures iffy at best. Everything rocks from the high energy opener “Tower of Babel” to the patient “Day by Day” to the dark “Turn Back, O Man.” James Tuuao’s choreography keeps everyone in motion, and rather than search for plot, this show is a gentle breeze of positive energy that flows over the socially distanced audience. It’s a warm non-denominational wave of positive energy, suitable for saints and sinners alike.