Dusty Dora Productions presents Paula Wolfson’s one-woman musical Judas Star Supersong at the Toronto Fringe Festival. Does the set-up sound familiar? A prophet is believed to be the long-awaited Messiah. His friend and disciple gets caught up in the web of fate as the politics of the day does its dirty work. Betrayal and crucifixion follow.
If you find yourself at Judas Star Supersong, you’re likely familiar with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s early 70s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, which puts a modern spin on the biblical account of Christ’s final days. If you’re not familiar with the source material, you really need to get on that; it’s an important—and glorious!—bit of musical theatre history.
Webber’s music is both exhilarating and haunting. Tim Rice’s lyrics are fiercely intelligent and humanize the mythos of the story with a touch of cynicism and a lot of sincerity.
Wolfson delivers a passionate medley of iconic songs from the musical. She and her team have pared down and re-arranged the numbers for a single performer. This is, technically, a concert, but for those familiar with—and especially those who love—the original show, it goes much deeper than that.
I could sense Wolfson’s fervent enthusiasm for the material and felt a kinship with her. (Strong mutual affection for art can be very powerful!) There isn’t much in the way of stagecraft; it’s really just her. And her presentation isn’t so much about the story of Jesus Christ Superstar as it is about sharing her experience of the music and lyrics.
And it’s spellbinding—far more so than I expected!
Her rendition of Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) is, perhaps, the most heartbreaking I’ve yet heard and I lost my shit a little bit toward the end of that number. Her interpretation of King Herod’s Song was another highlight for me. It’s a mocking song and often played flamboyantly, but Wolfson imbues it with a more subtle scorn that made it feel very fresh.
There were some serendipitous circumstances in the venue that added to the overall mystique of the show. Saint Stephen-in-the-fields Church seems to be undergoing some repairs and there is scaffolding looming in the background. Many productions of Jesus Christ Superstar utilize scaffolding as a main set-piece, so it felt entirely fitting. Even more magical, the setting sun came in at a perfect angle and gave the performance an appropriately sacred ambiance.
As a long-time fan of the original show, Judas Star Supersong felt to me like a worthy tribute, and Wolfson is a joy to behold!
- Judas Star Supersong plays at the Church of Saint Stephen-in-the-Fields. (103 Bellevue Ave.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Wednesday July 4th, 7:00 pm
- Thursday July 5th, 7:00 pm
- Friday July 6th, 6:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 7:00 pm
- Tuesday July 10th, 7:00 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 7:00 pm
- Thursday July 12th, 7:00 pm
- Friday July 13th, 6:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 4:00 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 7:00 pm
Photo of Paula Wolfson by Bonnie Anderson