Review by Joshua Maloni
It only took 30 seconds for the Niagara Falls High School Performing Arts Center to know this presentation of “Jesus Christ Superstar” was divinely inspired.
Once Jamie Holka and the band started into Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Overture” – those devilish guitar riffs, in particular – it was on, Friday night.
Not long after, a chorus appeared on stage, a gaggle of dancers began to swarm the made-up city streets, and T.J. Insana appeared as Jesus – which is not to say he turned water into wine, but rather offered an interpretation of the Son of God that strongly resonated with the audience. His singing was stellar – as per usual with the Berklee grad – but it was his acting that really drew hallelujahs from the crowd.
Insana brought experience to a role he first took up 30 years ago as a high school senior. That is to say, as a husband and father, he knows how to tend the sheep – to look out for the needs of others above self, even when – especially when – it’s difficult or downright painful.
Not to be outdone, Dennis Wilson pulled dynamic double-duty as both director and defector. His Judas was conflicted, colorful and larger-than-life.
In fact, Wilson could drop into any professional production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and hold his own as Jesus’ betrayer.
This was a showcase show for the Niagara Proscenium Alumni Players, a troupe formed by NFHS educators Wilson and Tommy Vitello – who also played piano and led the band on stage. What began as a “What if” amongst friends turned into something masterfully executed, marvelously performed, and truly inspirational for current theater students.
On this night, the performers from Niagara Falls, LaSalle and Niagara Catholic high schools proved 50 is nifty, and talent doesn’t have an expiration date.
As part of the presentation, $1,000 was donated to the Theresa Insana Memorial Scholarship fund. Pictured, from left, Thomas Insana (Theresa's uncle), T.J. Insana (Theresa's cousin), Jere Insana (Theresa's aunt), Tommy Vitello and Dennis Wilson. Scholarships are presented each year to a pair of NFHS senior girls.