Musical theater has a tradition known as the '11th hour number.'
It comes about midway through the second act, when the audience may be getting tired of sitting for so long. It may be bright and funny, or emotionally stirring. It's designed to make you sit up and start tapping your toes, or perhaps whisper 'Wow!' to your companion.
If a show isn't doing well, the 11th hour number can make you forget all the bad stuff that came before.
The 11th hour number in the Davis Musical Theatre Company production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera, 'Jesus Christ Superstar,' is 'Herod's Song.' Paul Fearn's Herod - dressed in an outlandish zoot suit that must be seen to be believed, and backed by a colorful assortment of dancers - easily steals the show.
Following tradition, 'Herod's Song' actually marks a turning point and seems to rouse everybody on stage.
This is one of the things to like in this production, which covers Jesus' life from Palm Sunday to his crucifixion.
Steve Isaacson's direction is satisfactory and appropriate: The action takes place on an essentially bare stage with a platform, all in front of the onstage orchestra, which has been let out of the pit. The production has some beautiful moments, such as the Last Supper and the final tableau, which is breathtaking.
Rand Martin's choreography is delightful; all the ensemble numbers work and are executed quite well. The Palm Sunday number, 'Hosanna,' is a lot of fun.
Jean Henderson's costumes always enchant, and she has outdone herself with Herod and his entourage.
The chorus members are well rehearsed and sound quite good, and we're willing to forgive the fact that most of the Apostles are female.
Some of the minor players are excellent. Eimi Stokes draws great applause as Simon, in 'Simon Zealotes.' Adam Sartain's Annas is noteworthy, and Andy Hyun (Caiaphas) has a marvelous bass voice ... although the music occasionally dips too low even for him.
Tony Osladil is memorable as the anguished Pontius Pilate, who wants to wash his hands of the whole business - 'If this man is harmless, why does he upset you?' - but ultimately is forced to send Jesus to his death.
All that said, this show's success rests on the big three: Jesus of Nazareth, Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene.
Judas is falling apart, because he fears that this man he has followed and loved is becoming a stranger, and is being influenced by the adulation of the crowds. Judas also is concerned about the deepening relationship between Jesus and Mary, a woman of questionable virtue.
Judas comes to believe the only way he can stop what he sees happening, is to collaborate with the enemies of Jesus and assist in his capture.
I've wrestled with how to handle my commentary about Judas. Given that this is community theater, with a volunteer cast of amateurs - people doing this for the love of it - it may be best to give this particular actor the benefit of the doubt, and hope that I caught him at a bad time.
The opening night performance was so bad that I've decided not to embarrass the actor by publishing his name.
I imagine this is what Jesus would have done, under similar circumstances.
I wanted so badly for this actor to be good ... or at least to get better, as the show progressed after its excruciatingly painful opening number. But he didn't, and it hurt to listen to him, although he certainly put heart and soul into the character's anguish.
David Holmes' Jesus is best during his quiet moments. His voice is beautiful and controlled, but during the more intense scenes he tends to shriek, often winding up off-key. Holmes did, however, improve throughout the opening night performance.
One can only hope, as he settles into the role, that he'll control his musical emotional outbursts as well as he handles his tender moments. He obviously has the ability to do so.
Emily Cannon-Brown makes a lovely Mary Magdalene, obviously in love with Jesus, but not certain how to handle a relationship with this man, the likes of whom she never has encountered. Sadly, Cannon-Brown also tends to be shrill, and she occasionally wanders off-key during her songs' most emotional moments.
Actually, even the technical end of things seemed not quite ready on opening night, with a body microphone or two that went off and on with irritating regularity, and some steps that initially weren't anchored; I worried every time someone used them.
All told, this show is uneven. I'm hard-pressed to say whether the good outweighs the bad. If Holmes can better modulate his more intense moments, he and Fearn (Herod) would make this 'Jesus Christ Superstar' worth seeing.
And let's just hope Judas improves as the run continues.