SALT LAKE CITY — One Man, One Guitar, Superstar was almost exactly what its title promised. Chicago performer David Knoell played his guitar through the main parts of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar. However, he had an open microphone onstage for any audience member to come up and belt their heart out. His audience inclusion made his one-man musical feel like a party.
Knoell started off asking people in the audience if they knew any of the songs. For those who did not, there was a web link that would take the audience to his website to follow along with Tim Rice‘s lyrics, which included parts in bold where the audience was encouraged to sing. Sadly, there was a huge rainstorm right before the performance I attended, so there were only two of us in the audience to help out. That did not discourage Knoell, and he got me singing one part and the other member singing another. Between the three of us, I felt like I could picture the whole cast, passionately singing the story on a large Broadway stage.
Knoell’s impressions were very entertaining, ranging from the low, deep growl as Caiaphas, to the high shrieks of Jesus when he is angry at the money changers disrespecting the temple. I loved hearing the lines for the first time too, which I was previously unfamiliar with. There were so many places I laughed out loud like from the line, “Jesus is cool.” Knoell’s facial expressions were also fantastic, like the smiling, confident face of the woman who swears she saw Peter with Jesus, and the face when Knoell’s mouth made an amazingly long oval, when as Pilot he was so excited to hear about this new guy named Jesus.
The best part about this show is Knoell has provided a space for people to sing out they all do at home in the shower, in their car, in the kitchen, in stairwells, but in a safe space. That is, they get to sing along with the powerful lyrics and music from a good musical. Despite my unfamiliarity with Jesus Christ Superstar, it was easy to pick up on and follow along, since there was plenty of repetitive parts, and by the time I was singing a solo, I had nearly gotten the tune down without Knoell’s help (for at least two lines). The other audience member engaged in the back and forth banter, she playing Judas and Knoell Jesus, which made that part so powerful and awesome.
I thought this show a fun choice for a performance, and it just made my night brighter having the chance to yell and sing just for fun, meet some cool people, and learn some new music in the process. So don’t miss it, especially if you like Jesus Christ Superstar!