[All images courtesy of jesuschristsuperstar.com/uktour]
When Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice first penned Jesus Christ Superstar, some had concerns about turning a religious tale into a rock opera. I have concerns about this latest UK tour turning my favourite musical into a pantomime.
Let’s start with the leading cast. Glenn Carter was superb as Jesus – his voice is absolutely stunning and his beautiful looks and overall stage presence was lovely to watch. Though I do believe he was directed slightly over-dramatically by Directors Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, he carried the show really well. Tim Rogers as Judas was no Tim Minchin, which was an overall problem with the production. The latest rock arena tour brought us world-class performances which made it very difficult for any cast to live up to. However, Rogers did a good job and he certainly drew the audience into the story.
I didn’t like Rachel Adedji when she was an X-Factor contestant, and I certainly didn’t like her as Mary Magdalene, either. I found that the bland character overshadowed her pleasant voice.
Speaking of X Factor contestants… Rhydian Roberts has been cast as Pontius Pilate for some of the performances, but unfortunately not the stint at the Leeds Grand. Though I felt it was a bit of a shame at first, his replacement Johnathan Tweedie stole the show for me, and I applaud him for that. His rich voice and incredible presence made a memorable performance and I felt real empathy for the character.
In my opinion, Carole Todd’s choreography was overblown and amateurish, though members of the chorus were absolutely brilliant. It was the background characters that made the show as they brought light and shade to what was a pretty odd concoction of directorial ideas.
We went from a pantomime production in which Herod donned nipple tassels and blue eyeliner, to a horrific and realistic portrayal of Jesus’ death. It was far too graphic for my personal taste, and to have to be objected to watching a long period of torture and screaming felt more like a day out at the York Dungeons than a trip to the theatre. I did wonder whether it was really necessary to go overboard with this, and perhaps some members of the audience would find it rather offensive.
The special effects, lighting and set were all magnificent and the live band was incredible. It’s always a treat to hear fantastic live music, especially when it’s a genius musical such as Jesus Christ Superstar, so in that respect it was a wonderful night out.
For my own taste, the production tried a little too hard to be something different. The directors tried to be edgy and new, but I don’t think it quite came off. However, the performance gained a standing ovation from the audience which just shows how subjective opinions about the theatre can be!
There’s no doubt that the musical itself is staggeringly good, and I’d urge anyone to go and watch it just to be able to say that you’ve seen it live on stage. There is an unmistakable atmosphere that the music evokes, and the cast did a great job of putting this across. For me, though, I’ll be sticking with the DVD version of the 2012 Arena tour.
Jesus Christ Superstar is touring the UK until November, with the closest theatre now being the Grand Opera House, York on 12-17 October.