‘Hosanna’ to the Mud Creek ‘Superstar’

By John Lyle Belden

“Jesus Christ Superstar,” Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera passion play, opened, appropriately, on Good Friday at Mud Creek Players.

The production, directed by Michelle Moore, embraced its setting within the cozy confines of the MCP “barn,” with rough-wood sets and a punk aesthetic, backed by a five-piece rock band. Cast members filled the aisles at times, lending a feeling more immersive than crowded. The costumes appeared to be raided from “Hair” or “American Idiot,” but still worked in the overall look, making our two male leads better stand out — the disciple Judas (Michael Lipphardt) all business in a leather jacket, and Jesus (Onis Dean) dressed casual like a man who, naturally, would fit in anywhere.

For those unfamiliar with this telling of the last week of Christ’s life, these are the main two perspectives — Judas fearing what could happen, and Jesus frustrated that only he can see what must happen — followed by the points of view of Mary Magdalene (Pearl Scott), a woman in love with the man as much as what he stands for; and Caiaphas (Lot Turner), the High Priest who sees a threat not only to his own personal power, but also to the safety of Jews in occupied Roman Palestine.

Dean and Lipphardt sing their hearts out — and I worry for their throats. Scott is pure sweetness. Turner just oozes corruption, ably accompanied by Kata Ewigleben as Annas. We also get good vocals from Eli Robinson as Simon the Zealot and Austin Stodghill as the Apostle Peter. Jeremy Crouch is regal as Pilate, and Rick Barber absolutely fabulous as King Herod.

“Don’t get me wrong, now,” I won’t say this production is flawless, but taken as a whole, in the spirit of this time of year, it is an incredible experience and celebration of a foundational event of Christianity.

Performances run through May 4. Mud Creek Players is at 9740 E. 86th St. in northeast Indianapolis, near Geist. Call 317-290-5343 or visit mudcreekplayers.com.

So much more than the sum of its parts

NOTE: As the Word/Eagle is in flux with the renaming and corresponding change in official website, John is putting his reviews here — for now.

By John Lyle Belden

The Khaos Company Theatre production of “Frankenstein,” adapted from the Mary Shelley novel by Indiana playwright Lot Turner, demands patience of the viewer.

It seems a bit wordy in the beginning, a flood of exposition as Victor Frankenstein (James Crawley) makes his confession to the sea captain (James McNulty) who has found him near the Arctic Circle. But the pace becomes more manageable as the story continues. Perhaps it was because I saw the play on opening night, but I saw Crawley get more comfortable in Victor’s skin as the evening wore on.

I was surprised to find that Sarah Johnson was in her first stage role as Justine, Frankenstein’s beautiful assistant – a petty thief who repays Victor’s kindness by plying her trade in graveyards. Johnson is natural and compelling in her complex role. There are no hunchbacks in this story; instead we get the tension between Justine’s genuine affection for Victor and his engagement to his bitter cousin Elizabeth (Linda Grant).

Jason Neuman is excellent as The Creature. His patchwork man speaks – and remembers, deepening the tragedy. Also notable is Bridget Isakson as Frankenstein’s mother, who never forgave Victor for surviving a childhood accident while her other son died.

The drama concludes with an interesting twist, a thought-provoking alternative ending to Shelley’s original fable.

I must also praise Johnson’s makeup effects and the KCT crew’s inventive creation of Victor’s laboratory machinery.

For the wary and budget-crunched, know that Friday, Oct. 28, is pay-what-you-want admission. Final curtain is Saturday, Oct. 29; performances are at the KCT stage, 3125 E. 10th St., Indianapolis. Info and tickets at kctindy.com.

John L. Belden is Associate Editor at The Eagle (formerly The Word), the central-Indiana based Midwest LGBTQ news source.