Eleven years ago, brother and sister Gregory Luzitano and Mary Luzitano founded the Striving Artists Theater Company in order to produce plays, short films, and podcasts. Several years into their work, with a number of holiday shows in the books, a demand began to surface for the organization to provide recorded versions of their arrangements. Hence, the musical branch of the company was born, and they shortened the title a bit to Striving Artists as a band name.
Though the talented multi-instrumentalist Gregory Luzitano is at the heart and soul of their recorded works, (depending on what a song needs, he may be playing guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, vocals and/or production), he also has a knack for finding and recruiting plenty of musical and vocal talent. For their latest production, Jesus Christ Superstar: A Striving Artists Cast Recording, a double-album covering the old 1970 rock opera classic, Greg recruited another talented ensemble…
Nate Goncalo (drums)
Jessica Hookway (trumpet)
Emma Hookway (flute)
Abigail Dickson (violin)
Gregory Luzitano (guitar, bass, piano, keyboard, percussion, vocals as Jesus)
James Turner (vocals as Judas)
Jenn Luzitano (vocals as Mary Magdalene)
Jeremy Benson (vocals as Pontius Pilate)
Nate Conant (vocals as Caiaphas)
Matthew Condon (vocals as King Herod)
Johnbarry Green (vocals as Annas)
Andy LeBlanc (vocals as Peter)
Carol Smolinsky (vocals as Simon)
Danielle Wood (vocals as a priest)
“For ‘Gethsemane’, which is sort of the emotional centerpiece for my character, I recorded the vocal immediately after getting off the phone with the vet when we made the decision to put the dog to sleep after a long bout with cancer. I just had a lot of turmoil in me at that moment, so like any self-obsessed, pretentious artist, I figured I’d capture that turmoil on tape.” —Greg Luzitano
From the opening, Overture, to the closing John Nineteen Forty-One, Luzitano and company skillfully create a sonic experience that stays respectful and true to the 40 year old original, while, at the same time, taking tasteful advantage of just the right amount of modern production.
A perfect example of that respect occurs in What’s the Buzz – Strange Thing Mystifying, as Striving Artists nailed the bass riff and the vocal soul and flair that keep the track true to its roots.
This Jesus Must Die transitions the listener into the story’s darkest time with as much theatricality as its predecessor. In fact, I prefer the vocal performances of this remake to the original.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s original piece is complex and wildly creative. To call it a difficult project to re-create would be a gross understatement. This is never more true than in The Temple which sees Jesus scold the infamous temple-goers. Once again, the Striving Artists crew have put together an impressive interpretation. Particularly, the vocals of Jesus (performed by Gregory Luzitano) at the 1:51 mark are gripping. Listen to him wail. Honestly, it caught me off guard in the best of ways.
In Pilate and Christ, Jeremy Benson recreates Pontius’s antagonism of Christ with keen accuracy. Very cool.
Superstar is crisp and cool, and for me, is the apex of the performance. James Turner’s vocals are more than worthy of Judas. That said, there’s one standout I’ve yet to mention: Nate Goncalo’s drum performance on this track, and throughout this epic undertaking, is no less than razor sharp and arguably spectacular.
For the sake of this review, I decided to listen to both the original version, and Striving Artists’ take, side-by-side. With that experience fresh in my mind, I offer this: If you’ve never taken in the original rock opera version of Jesus Christ Superstar, no worries, you’ll get everything you could possibly need from that experience by listening to Striving Artists’ rendition. (Yes, I mean that.) Their commitment to excellence and accuracy in every facet of the production shows immense respect to the original, and is nothing short of outstanding and absolutely impressive.
BELOW, you can listen to music from Striving Artists’ new album, Jesus Christ Superstar: A Striving Artists Cast Recording, check out our interview with band member Greg Luzitano, connect with their website and social media platforms, watch their video, and find their contact information. Please support Striving Artists by visiting them online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing their music. And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
Listen to music from Striving Artists’ album, Jesus Christ Superstar—A Striving Artists Cast Recording:
Listen to our artist interview with Greg Luzitano of Striving Artists:
Follow, stream, download & connect with Striving Artists online:
Watch Striving Artists’ video trailer for Jesus Christ Superstar—A Striving Artists Cast Recording:
Contact information for Striving Artists:
Email: greg (at) strivingartists.org