Review: Bigger Than Jesus (Factory Theatre, WYRD and Necessary Angel)

Rick Miller in Bigger Than JesusI first saw Bigger Than Jesus at Factory Theatre in 2005.  I was blown away and completely in love with the show.  I finally had the chance to see this Factory Theatre, WYRD and Necessary Angel co-production again, and I still love it in 2011.

Sometimes the shows I love are the hardest to review.  I suddenly feel some huge responsibility to make sure I convey just the right thing.  Instead of looking for the words to convey how I felt about a show, I find myself looking for the perfect words to convey my feelings on a piece.

As you can imagine, trying to find the perfect words sets me up for failure.  But, just saying “this is a fantastic show, and people should pack the theatre every night” doesn’t really tell the story.

Let me start with a bit about the show.  As the piece begins, Rick Miller, co-writer with Daniel Brooks, and sole actor in the show, tells the audience we are “about to witness a Mass.  A universal, multi-denominational celebration of the Spirit,” using the words of the Catholic liturgy. Those words are directly quoted from the script, which I have on hand because last time I saw the show I liked it so much I bought the script.

Now, a one-man show with the word Jesus in the title, which references a mass, may make some people trepidatious.  If you’re worried it will be a show that tries to ‘bring you closer to God’ or some such thing, rest assured this isn’t the case.  If you’re worried it will be a sacrilegious rant, for the most part you also need not worry.

The most sacrilegious part of the piece is the suggestion that Jesus was just a guy, a good guy, but just a guy nonetheless.  In the piece Jesus asks “How did I, a country rabbi, come to be worshipped 2000 years after my death?”  There is also commentary that the books of the bible are beautiful stories, not the literal word of God.  If the thought of seeing those sentiments on stage makes you see red, then you may want to avoid the show.  But to me it didn’t feel at all like a religion-bashing, or a religion-promoting piece.

Getting away from the script for a minute, there’s a lot to enjoy in the production.  It’s one of the best uses of multi-media in a show that I’ve ever seen.  All too often, when I watch a show with multi-media I feel like it was thrown in because it’s a cool thing to do, not because it’s going to further the story.  In this case it’s both cool and furthers the piece.  In fact, the piece would feel naked without it.

As for performance, Rick Miller is a force to be reckoned with on stage.  The man oozes talent.  I was completely engaged from start to finish.  There were parts where I laughed so loudly the person in front of me seemed frightened, and parts where I was brought to quiet tears.

My show partner, Sam (AKA Mum) and I were talking afterwards and she said “There are a couple types of good shows.  There are shows that you go to that are great, and if someone asked you if they should go, you’d say ‘absolutely’, but you wouldn’t do much beyond that.  Then there are shows that are so amazing you want to immediately talk to everyone you know and tell them they have to go see this.  This show is one of those amazing ones.”

I agree wholeheartedly.  In fact, I remember the last time I saw it doing just that.  And, true to her word, Sam immediately told her roommate about it.  The roommate and a friend are going tonight.

Like I said, it’s hard to find the perfect words.  Bottom line is Bigger Than Jesus is dynamic, engaging, funny and thought-provoking.  I can’t recommend it enough.  Go see this one.

Bigger Than Jesus is playing at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street) until October 9, 2011
– Shows run Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2pm
– Ticket prices range from $35 – $45 ($30 – $40 for Students, Seniors and Arts Workers).  Sunday performances are PWYC (Suggested donation $15).
– Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-504-9971, or in person at the Factory Theatre Box Office