Jesus' Kid Brother
by Don Grigware
Holy Christ! Hold your hats and hallelujah! As the rock-opera bare expanded the horizons of musical theatre, Brian and Mark Karmelich have picked up the cue and molded an original musical comedy Jesus' Kid Brother - a rollicking rhythmical ride that is so fresh, frisky and flavorful, it may even surpass Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell not only for its boldly entertaining style, but for its eclectic effusion of Christian values.
Currently on the Hudson Mainstage with direction from the incomparable Jules Aaron and rousing choreography by Brian Paul Mendoza, Brother's cast of 18 sing, dance and redefine the gospel, with underdog Larry (charismatic David Brouwer) the unlikely leader. What is most ingenious about the Karmelich treatment is the unabashed introduction of the new sibling into the biblical story, so naturally that it is hard to believe he was not there in the first place. As it's no fun for stepfather Joseph always following in the shadow of God, life is an equal hell for Larry. Get a job and find love -- those are the two goals that Joseph (Jeffrey Landman) tells Larry to pursue. Simple efforts create the greatest amount of stress, though, as Pontius (known to his wife as Ponti) Pilate (Amir Talai) has decreed crucifixion for all unemployed Jews and for any Jew consorting with a Roman -- not a pretty picture for PP's daughter Mary (Katherine Von Till) either who has fallen head over heels for Larry. The Roman Empire is in almost as bad a shape as California. The comedy is a mix of Mel Brooks and the Zucker Brothers, but that's OK as Star of David Buck's, Ernest and Julio, and Da Baker are friendly corporate neighbors with whom we empathize and trust.
From its first number "Biblical Times" to its finale "Half Brothers", the score simply rocks. In the fabulous cast, Benjamin Sprunger defines Roman god; Todd Stern & Paul Morente cavort affectedly as Kris & Kross the crossmakers. There's even sibling rivalry in Pilate's family with daughter Destiny (Rana Davis, creating a diehard diva) vying for attention. On the fun scale of one to ten -- a twenty!
(c) NoHo LA Magazine