Review: Jesus Christ Superstar @ New Theatre
This Passion turned rock-opera has never been away from praise and even notoriety. After the blockbuster arena tour of the last few years, we are now left with this production.
Depicting the last few days of Jesus, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice created a musical very much of its time yet still holds up today. With a fine selection of famous songs including Heaven On Their Minds, I Don't Know How To Love Him, Hosanna, Everything's Alright and Gethsemane, this is an electrifying powerhouse of a show that should be taken very seriously.
Where there is controversy is with the rock element of the show. Electric guitars and drum kits feature heavily, especially with Judas. The work is seen through his eyes and we can almost feel sorry for him, faced with the cataclysmic burden of bringing down Christ for thirty pieces of sliver. Some would argue that he is the most important factor in Christianity - without him Jesus would never have been resurrected. This rationalises Judas and humanises Christ and there is of course, nothing wrong with that.
Glenn Carter plays Jesus with solemn grace, yet sheer fury and vigour when required. His high notes could rival an alto, particularly in his existential crises song of Gethsemane. Tim Rogers was all over the place as Judas, but came into his own at the final controversial Superstar song, just after Christ's fate is summoned. Looking more akin to a character in Robin Hood, here he is clad in white jeans and denim jacket going full throttle as his own rock god (reading his lyrics should lessen any offence).
Our Rhydian Roberts has a very smooth voice as Pontius Pilate with few scenes but a large stage presence. Mary Magdalene (I should also point out that the Virgin Mary does not feature in the show at all) was a solemn Rachel Adedeji with a somewhat persistent singing voice. I Don't Know How To Love Him was sung with bitter laments. Cavin Cornwell as Caiaphas was a bass singer hard not to notice as the other Priest (who also have some cunning, catchy motives).
The utterly ridiculous Tom Gilling as King Herod is our well-needed brief comic relief. Camping things up and telling Jesus to "walk across our swimming pool", he quickly repels him and is sent back to Pilate. The other Apostles were a spiralling troupe whose energy never floundered. The band also keeps momentum in the highly memorable melodies.
The evening ended with a heart-stopping crucifixion. As the female singers belt out notes on speakers, Jesus is slowly killed on the cross. A hush came over the audience, with some wiping tears. This is a story that shall always move people and this work brings new generations to the greatest story ever told.
Remarkable musical theatre.
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Related Article: Interview: Rhydian