Dusty Dora Productions presents Paula Wolfsonâ€™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.Â Â
If you find yourself at Judas Star Supersong, youâ€™re likely familiar with Andrew Lloyd Webberâ€™s early 70s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, which puts a modern spin on the biblical account of Christâ€™s final days. If youâ€™re not familiar with the source material, you really need to get on that; itâ€™s an importantâ€”and glorious!â€”bit of musical theatre history.Â
Webberâ€™s music is both exhilarating and haunting. Tim Riceâ€™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 withâ€”and especially those who loveâ€”the original show, it goes much deeper than that.Â
I could sense Wolfsonâ€™s fervent enthusiasm for the material and felt a kinship with her. (Strong mutual affection for art can be very powerful!) There isnâ€™t much in the way of stagecraft; itâ€™s really just her. And her presentation isnâ€™t so much about the story of Jesus Christ Superstar as it is about sharing her experience of the music and lyrics.Â
And itâ€™s spellbindingâ€”far more so than I expected!Â
Her rendition of Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) is, perhaps, the most heartbreaking Iâ€™ve yet heard and I lost my shit a little bit toward the end of that number. Her interpretation of King Herodâ€™s Song was another highlight for me. Itâ€™s a mocking song and often playedÂ flamboyantly, but Wolfson imbues it with a more subtle scorn that made it feel very fresh.Â
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 SupersongÂ 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 discountsÂ 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 startÂ 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