A wonderful cast highlights ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at Claremont’s Candlelight Pavilion

As it moved quickly to stage, and then to film, it developed a new, wider audience, and the show has rarely been off the boards since.Now at the Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater in Claremont, “Jesus Christ Superstar” — for those who don’t already know — gives a comparatively modern spin to the tale of the last few weeks of Jesus’ life. Though ostensibly “humanizing” the story (i.e.: making it more about the man than a deity), it stays fairly faithful to the commonly held storyline, while embracing what is always a dramatist’s challenge: finding a motivation for Judas’ betrayal. The first major splash made by the songwriting team of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber was a 1971 concept rock opera album titled “Jesus Christ Superstar.”For many of my generation, that was how we first encountered this work, allowing our imaginations to fill in what the characters looked like and the setting they would wander through. And the music is literally classic Lloyd Webber: lush in spots, stridently rock ’n’roll in others, somewhat thematically repetitive, with that unforgettable quality which has kept him a success for decades.

One just wishes that the shadow of his final demise looked a bit more like a person, but that is nitpicking. Bermudez has the combination of vocal strength and articulation necessary for what becomes the binding storyline behind the obvious. A remarkable ensemble, including Orlando Montes as Peter, sings well, dances with enthusiasm and skill, and creates the atmospheres necessary — whether of fawning, devotion, delight, demand, or panic — to make the piece work.A true standout in all of this is Richard Bermudez as the angsty Judas, angry and horrified, and in the end sure he’s been duped into his actions.

Pacing is everything in this show, and band director Alan Waddington never lets the thing slow down or pause. Indeed, the final tableau as the lights go out is particularly powerful. Putting a band on the small Candlelight stage means the large ensemble must be maneuvered with skill in front of and even above the musicians at times, which works remarkably well except when someone in a long robe has to climb a ladder in a hurry — a bit nerve-wracking to watch.Still, the two directors have a gift for the visual, and some moments prove especially impressive, including the very last sequence, as Jesus is executed.

for lunch matinees Saturday-Sunday.Where: Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theater, 455 W. Sunday, and 11 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Foothill Blvd., Claremont.Tickets: $61-$76 adults, $30-$35 children, meals inclusive.Running time: 2 hrs., including intermission (but not time for the meal).Suitability: Best for older children and up.Information: 909-626-1254, ext. 100; www.candlelightpavilion.com. ★★&#x2605When: Through April 29; doors open for dinner at 6 p.m.

Heading that list, Kyle Short makes an effective Jesus, balancing his dynamism against his exhaustion and fear. Emily Chelsea gives Mary Magdalene’s songs a slight country lilt, but it works.Stanton Kane Morales as Pontius Pilate develops a rather wistful tone, which works well. Camilo Castro, a true bass, gives Caiaphas the aura of villainy necessary for this show’s spin on events. At Candlelight, co-directors Chuck Ketter and John LaLonde have assembled a fine cast. They look right, sing with skill and intention, and create the atmosphere necessary for the show to be a success.Also necessary for success are a few key players.