Jesus Christ Superstar Review

Date: 15 November 2018, Evesham Arts Centre, Musical
Director: Alison Roberts
Musical Director: John Wood
Choreographers: Gail Andrews, Kirsty McKay, Bethaney Rimmer and Alison Roberts
NODA Reviewer: Andy Brown

Jesus Chris Superstar a rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice made its debut on Broadway in 1971. The show is primarily sung throughout with little dialogue. It tells of Jesus and Judas leading up to the crucifixion.

Speaking with Alison before the performance it was evident, we were in for something out of the ordinary and something special. Having sought permission from the right holders this production was not going to be traditionally set. We were told to prepare for a show with surprise, shock and emotion.

Would then an account of events 2000 years ago in modern dress and modern interpretation work? It most certainly did. If anything, bringing to modern day life made the show more powerful due to the way it still reflected the world we live in today and showed a mixture of the current world or our more recent history.

Both the leading men delivered well on the demands of the roles. John Dix as Jesus Christ and Dean Bayliss as Judas Iscariot gave powerful and believable performances. These characters were dressed differently to the rest of the cast. These costumes worked well and gave a good depiction of the characters. The lead up to the crucifixion was as Alison had warned us.

Rhianna Jacobs gave a good performance as Mary Magdalene and sang one of the many highlights of the show – ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ with great feeling.

Pontius Pilate played by Jonathan Barclay was depicted as a German officer during the Second World War and showed the power of hate towards a race of people to its full.

We often see shows where a smaller cameo role can deliver a great performance and leave the audience remembering that performance. I refer to Greg Sheppard Pearson and his character of King Herod. The costume was great, I am not sure who the character was based upon, but I am sure he might have believed the events were ‘Fake News’!

There were good supporting roles played by Nigel Smith as Caiaphas, Ken Knight as Annas, Simon Edwards as Simon Peter and Nathan Warren as Simon Zealotes.

The remaining roles were played by members of the ensemble which included solos and dancers in this non-stop musical masterpiece with, in some cases, numerous costume changes and frequent appearances through the auditorium.

The set was if anything simple but worked, enabling cast to act and sing on different levels and enable the actors to look down on the action and have a more superior presence. It was good to see a set that fitted the stage well. The last supper was set more as a picnic but worked well and the set showed itself at it’s best for the powerful crucifixion.

The lighting was excellent for this show and clearly the director and the whole production team had spent time and thought into devising the plot. The ability to change the mood with modern stage lighting especially in relation to Judas and his death as well as the crucifixion were imaginative and well done.

The music under the direction of John Wood was very strong and completely at the right level all evening. At no point did the music seem too loud. The band of eleven plus the musical director played off stage and then just to prove they were there they took part in the curtain call which was a good touch.

After another successful show I look forward to your 2019 programme. Initially So That’s What We Call Musicals in May and then a traditional family favourite next November – The Sound of Music.