Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Tim Rice
Director: Bob Thompson &Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: Jonny Black
Jesus Christ Superstar first hit the stage in 1971 and has been thrilling audiences around the world ever since. It was the first professional stage production by the hugely successful team of Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics).‘JCS’ is a rock opera which tells the story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus. Many productions have come and gone in the last forty years and this new production, produced by Bill Kenwright and directed by Bob Tomson, seems like an honest and faithful reprisal. Perhaps most similar to the 2004 production produced by the same team. With a quality cast, strong set and a faithfully arranged score this show, happily, has a greater depth of quality than Kenwright’s recent revival of another Lloyd Webber musical, Evita.
The set design by Paul Farnsworth is powerful and grand. It is dominated by huge sculptured pillars and a U-shaped metal framework which incase a central staircase. A huge crown of thorns ominously looms above the stage creating a sense of tension. The setting is imposing. The lighting is sharp and inviting and the modestly sized orchestra, led by Musical Director Bob Broad, is note perfect. Acoustic guitar and funky bass beats accompany rip roaring rock guitar solos to perfectly compliment the action as it unfolds. The sound here tonight at the Palace Theatre is first class with a great balance between singers and band.
The show is well cast, mixing seasoned Musical theatre campaigners alongside some new emerging talent and a versatile and talented ensemble. X Factor favourite Rhydian Roberts is off tonight but superbly deputised by Johnathan Tweedie. Glenn Carter is back as Jesus, a rôle he has played for twenty years both on screen and stage. He certainly has not lost any of his sparkle for the part with a vocal master class and a measured performance portraying the depth and range of emotions that Jesus goes through in his last days. The final scene on the cross is particulary hard to watch such is the pain and torture that Carter conveys. His voice soars from soft understated chest tones to powerful belt and head voice – impressive. Tim Rogers is menacing, powerful and complex as Judas with vocals to match. The suicide scene is extremely effective and moving.
Rachel Adedeji is graceful as Mary Magdalene and adds a soft and soulful voice to the mix. Although it did feel, at times, the vocal part was a bit low for her and consequently we may not have heard her full potential. Tim Killing is highly entertaining and sufficiently camp in the rôle of king Herod and the rest of the cast and supporting players work well in the company scenes. The choreography by Carol Todd is sharp, particularly in ‘Hosanna’.
With such a fantastic and catchy score boasting songs like ‘Gethsemane’, ‘Everything’s Alright’, ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ and ‘Heaven on Their Minds’ it’s difficult for this show not to succeed but this is a production that dates back to the early seventies and it’s important that the set, cast and music are fresh and engaging. This production definitely ticks all those boxes and this results in a hugely entertaining night of musical theatre.
The full house was thrilled by what they had seen and the audience left with smiles on their faces and LLoyd Webber songs in their heads. Now, how many times have we heard that before!
Runs until Sat 18th April 2015