Jesus Christ Superstar
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 30 September 2023
The biblical tale with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice has returned to the region for the first time in a long while. The rock opera feels fresh and engaging, no wonder the theatre was packed on opening night.
The show covers the last few days of the life of Jesus. I will assume that most people will know the ending so they will be few spoilers here. Jesus and his entourage have reached the attention of the priests Caiaphas (Jad Habchi) and Annas (Matt Bateman) who see a threat to the state. Effectively the show is narrated in part by Judas (Shem Omari James) as he gives his views on Jesus (Ian McIntosh). At Jesus's side is Mary Magdalene (Hannah Richardson) who, at times, seems more supportive than his followers when the heat goes up.
This show is sung through and thus relies on the quality of the singing. Brandishing microphones and mic stands, the cast do a fantastic job of bringing the story alive. Stand out performances included I Don't Know How To Love Him and Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) as Hannah Richardson and Ian McIntosh put their own stamp on these musical classics.
The musicians are on the stage in the view of the audience rather than tucked away in the pit. This gives the show, in part, a feeling of a concert performance. But this is most definitely a proper musical thanks to the ensemble and their tight choreography. They fill in many roles and act as stand hands as props appear and disappear as necessary between, as sometimes during, the big numbers. The result is a show that flows rapidly.
At over 50 years old, the musical could easily become dated in either the orchestration or the dancing. Thankfully the show has a modern feel in how it has been staged.
Jesus Christ Superstar is an entertaining, engaging and pacey show and it has an ace up its sleeve. The second act appearance of King Herod is made this production very memorable as it involved Julian Clary adding a nice touch of sparkle to the role.
Review: Stephen Oliver
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