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Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar

An Album That Inspired A Revolution. A Revelation That Changed The World. A Reinvention For This Millennium.

Timothy Sheader (Crazy for You, Into the Woods) directs this mesmerizing new production of the iconic global phenomenon, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR which tours again in 2024!

Starring Ian McIntosh (We Will Rock You, Follies, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) as Jesus, Shem Omari James (Dreamgirls UK Tour) as Judas and Hannah Richardson (Sting’s The Last Ship) as Mary. Originally staged by London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, this reimagined production won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival.

Choreographed by Drew McOnie (King Kong, Strictly Ballroom), and with music and lyrics by multi-award winners Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is set during the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ. Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ and ‘Gethsemane’.

Don’t miss your chance to see this “gorgeous, thrilling, heavenly musical.”–The Guardian.

Our review on Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar - The Lowry, Salford - Tuesday 21st May 2024 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR IS INTENSE, EVOCATIVE AND AN EXPERIENCE NOT TO BE MISSED!

All someone needs to do is say the title of this Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical, and most people will start humming the titular tune in their heads on loop, probably for days!  It has been going for a whopping 50 plus years and shows no signs of slowing down.  The first rock opera, it is a groundbreaking piece of musical theatre, and even started out by doing things a little differently with a concept album to drum up interest before the show had even been produced!  Songs even entered the charts – almost unheard of for musical theatre – and has gone on to break boundaries yet again by introducing musical theatre into arena tours!  In short, Jesus Christ Superstar is a phenomenon that you simply have to see.  And don’t worry about your religious beliefs either, because this show may tell the story of a religious figure, but it is done through the eyes of his best friend Judas, making the story focus heavily on what it must have felt like at the time to have your buddy believe he was the son of God, and how bizarre that must have sounded.  It focuses on the people involved and explores their stories and their reactions to Jesus and his claims.  So, we follow Jesus in the last week or two of his life as he makes some extraordinary statements and garners a huge following.


But Judas worries for his sanity and so, as the hysteria builds, we are plunged headfirst into the psychology of cults, followers, and with social media and celebrity perhaps ruling many modern lives in a similar way, it is enticing and gripping to watch the comparisons as to how we all simply want to believe and belong to something and how far that can take us.  The relationships between the characters massively tell the story, from Jesus to Mary Magdalene, Jesus to Judas, and King Herod to everyone who he feels threatened by.  This is by no means a simple retelling of the Gospel, but an intimate, whirlwind, and chaotic glimpse into the tale of how an ordinary man believed in something so strongly, he was able to make infinite more people believe too.  And there are some very real, very poignant moments in their too that sadly reflect the current state of affairs and how vile humans can be to each other for simply believing different things.


And so, the show begins with that infectious guitar lick that had me beaming in an instant and feeling the electricity being poured into the theatre.  Within seconds you fully understand why this show has won many accolades including an Olivier for best revival.  For this production has absolutely been brought bang up to date under Timothy Sheader’s direction, Tom Scutt’s design, and Tom Deering and Michael Riley’s musical direction.  You will feel like you are at a rock concert.  The adrenaline is palpable and the visuals and drive of the show, flashing lights, copious amounts of glitter, and performers switching to hand held microphones for maximum impact, will blow your mind.  It is most definitely a concert that tells a story rather than a story told through theatre, which alters the entire performance and dynamic to epic proportions.  The performers may sometimes be in the literal spotlight but are often lit artistically too, leaving them in silhouette or enveloped in hazy, atmospheric smoke. 


Jesus Christ Superstar
has always played by different rules, and so I applaud them are proudly sticking to their original routes and making this a rock concert first and foremost.  The set is very urban, with rusting steel girders, rigging, and scaffolding, providing a great aesthetic for the mood and dynamic of the show.  It is used beautifully by the cast as they make it their own, climbing, suspending, entwining, and owning every inch of it.  A huge fallen cross dominates the floor and is used as a stage throughout, superbly giving a platform to the different characters.  The lighting by Lee Curran will whisk you into a rock frenzy, pulse your emotional state to the heights, and leave you agog at the final climax of the show.  A single beam of light before the sun seemingly sets on the reunion of Jesus and Judas.  The choreography by Drew Mconie expertly blends rock concert with musical theatre, making it powerful, slick, energised to a new level, and athletic to say the least.  It is mesmerising and hypnotic.  Canons are used throughout which not only looks amazing in this highly talented ensemble, but it reinforces the idea of this crowd all following one another blindly.  The dancing is so frenzied, it is almost ritualistic in its portrayal, showing the obsession of the group to belong.  There are symbolic moments of baptism, and washing themselves clean throughout, and one dancer in particular was so frantically brilliant that it can only be equated to the dance equivalent of speaking in tongues.  During ‘Everything’s Alright’ the backing singers and dancers moved like sirens, or mermaids, beguiling their prey.  Every detail of the choreography was so thought out that it truly told the story in its own right.


As for the cast, I mean, jaw drop!  The vocal demands on this show are insane, as is the emotional investment.  I can only image how spent each and every one of them is at the end of a performance for they give it everything they have.  This score ranges from the highest falsetto to the deepest bass, with everything in between being belted out to raise the rafters.  The story is told through the eyes of Judas, played by Shem Omari James (Dreamgirls) and he brings every emotion available to the table.  He thrusts us into his story and he forces us to feel everything he feels.  It is quite unbelievable, and his guilt will rip through you.  Then, to finish you off, his vocals will rip through you too, from his powerful command to his gentle falsetto.  Ian McIntosh (Beautiful, We Will Rock You) is enthralling as Jesus, taking us on a highly emotive journey from a seemingly humble man to a troubled one who feels he no longer has autonomy of his own path.  He performs with intelligence, keeping us on our emotional toes as we are whisked into excitement by him one moment, feel his pain the next, and desperately try to understand the perceived stubbornness the next.  It is a raw, eclectic, and passionate performance, and don’t even get me started on Gethsemane!  I just don’t have the words.  This was a moment to feel, and it will remain in my treasured memories for ever.  There is a certain sweet spot in it where I felt like I was hit with a whomph of something celestial. 


Hannah Richardson
 as Mary Magdalene was enticingly sultry, seductive and sensational.  She didn’t shy away from her characters profession but also allowed us to see that this didn’t make her any less of a person with feelings, and as those two things crossed over for Mary, Richardson came alive with the tensions it caused.  Timo Tatzber makes quite the entrance as Herod, with a flamboyance befitting a diva reclaiming their stage, complete with a glitzy gold costume and extensive cape.  It is a deliciously diva-esque performance blending a dark and twisty combination of danger and sardonic humour.  It was a crowd pleasing moment for even though the intentions of Herod weren’t great, the deliverance through fabulous comedic skills provided a perfectly timed emotional respite.  It was pure showbiz heaven and executed to perfection.  Ryan O’Donnell as Pilate is utterly phenomenal.  The anguish as he changes in the wake of mob mentality is outstanding and I felt his desperation as the broken world around him closed in.  It was quite the transformation from his initial disgust, to fear as the stakes were raised around him.  It was uncomfortable, as it should be, and his performance was captivating.


Jad Habchi
is a vocal magician as Caiaphas!  How he maintained those gorgeous, deep notes with such power and volume is so impressive.  His performance was a stunning cathartic moment amidst all the heavy emotions, as he erupted into boy band moments with a jaw dropping vocal range. Stephen Lewis-Johnston as Annas sounded like a rock god and belted out unbelievable notes that just left you shaking your head in blissful disbelief, as did Luke Street as Simon.  And can I just say, I thought I was hallucinating at one point, having 42 Balloon withdrawals if you will, but I was not!  Charlie McCullagh is back in Jesus Christ Superstar already!  Tonight, he was one of the fantastic ensemble but he is also the alternative Jesus, so watch out for that performance too!


The entire ensemble cast are an epic unit.  Energetic, enthusiastic, electric – they hit every note, every beat, every breath of this spectacular show.  They are excessive to say the least, and in a larger-than-life production, this has to be the case else they would become entirely lost on stage.  They ensure the pace, the mood and the impact of the show doesn’t sit still for a moment, always evolving, always challenging, always impressing.  The use of symbolism in the show is worth looking out for, from the silver liquid on Judas’ hands representing his betrayal with the pieces of silver, to the eruptions of gold glitter during the whips that Jesus receives, representing the spilling of his blood.  This moment is brutal and you may find yourself squirming in your seat at the inhumanity.  Another intuitively clever moment is the apostles at the last supper as they all freeze as the famous Last Supper painting.  It is actually quite moving to see.  Judas’ end is equally symbolic with him using the microphone cable and leaving it to drop and swing lifelessly in place of himself.  There are so many genius moments in this production of Jesus Christ Superstar that I believe you could watch it again and again and keep finding new nuances to appreciate.


Jesus Christ Superstar
will claw at your emotions, ripping them apart until you are left with a rawness that you don’t quite know what to do with.  It sounds brutal, and it is, but it is so unbelievably brilliant too.  It can be an overwhelming environment as your senses are stimulated to the extreme by music, lights, sound, atmosphere, and an unexpected passionate response.  But this contemporary and artistic original rock opera is an experience not to be missed.  Jesus Christ Superstar is intense, evocative and still trailblazing 50 years later, and after what I’ve just witnessed, will still be trailblazing in another 50!

 

WE SCORE JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR...



Watch our "In Conversation with Shem Omari James" video

 

Our review on Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar - Palace Theatre, Manchester - Wednesday 13th September 2023 by Leanne Parker-Tyree

Our Rating
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR IS A CONTEMPORARY AND EDGY MUSICAL WELL WORTH EXPERIENCING!

I can’t lie, I was excited for this one! Jesus Christ Superstar is one musical production that I have never seen before. As a 14-year-old schoolgirl who had just opted to do drama at GCSE, I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in a workshop at my school with some professional musical theatre artists, who showcased some of the main musical numbers from this production for us, up on our lowly, creaking school stage. Thus, my love of musical theatre began. This was back in 1993 and let me tell you, dear reader, 30 years may have passed since that event, but tonight, finally, I got to take my seat and see the whole thing unfold in front of me and overall, I have to say, it did not disappoint.



Featuring lyrics and music by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber respectively, this production is a revival of this 1970’s classic musical heavyweight. I did wonder whether the musical stylings might have lost some of their edge, or show their age, given the almost four and a half decades that have passed since it was composed. Within the opening portion of the show, the apostles ask; “What’s the buzz, tell me what’s-a-happening“ and this reviewer can confirm that the ‘buzz’ is an electric evening ahead and ‘what’s-a-happening’ is a musical masterpiece, reinvented to deliver a frantic, contemporary, exciting revamp of this classic production, full of rock opera refrains, choreographic brilliance, and performed by an energetic, enthusiastic cast who give their all in a thrilling, high voltage performance from start to end.




As the overture began, with the all too familiar solo guitar reverberating around the theatre from high up within the stage rig itself, the hairs on my arms rose. Massive props must go out to the live band; Felix Strickland, Ryan Webber, Gordon Davidson, Laura Llewellyn Jones, Gavin Tate-Lovery, David Csizmadia and Venessa Domonique who were small in number, but mighty in their powerhouse of a performance throughout. While this musical may have originally been debuted on stage in 1971, this touring production, with its slick, artistic choreography carefully crafted to thrilling effect by Olivier Award-winning Drew McOnie is most certainly a ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ for our time.



Based on the gospels accounts of the passion of Christ, the week leading to the Crucifixion of Jesus, this incarnation of the production catapults us relentlessly into the psychology of Jesus and other key characters, with huge swathes of the plot focused on the role of Judas, played by Shem Omari James (Dreamgirls - UK Tour, Vanara - Hackney Empire, The Music of Andrew Lloyd WebberSongs For a New World - London Palladium). Ian McIntosh (Olivier Award nominee for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of Barry Mann in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Aldwych Theatre), Galileo Figaro in We Will Rock You (London Coliseum); Deco Cuffe in The Commitments (UK & Ireland Tour); Galileo Figaro in We Will Rock You (20th Anniversary UK & Ireland Tour); Young Ben Stone in Follies (National Theatre); Sid Worley in An Officer and A Gentleman (UK and Ireland Tour); Bud in Angels, Punks and Raging Queens (The Criterion); Ray/Alternate Deco Cuffe in The Commitments (Palace Theatre); Hair – The European Arena Tour) brings an emotional rawness to his portrayal of Jesus that throughout the show expertly switches between making us, the audience feel like we are intruding on the intimacy of the characters inner feelings one moment and pulling us in to share in the expansive hysteria surrounding his idol status the next. The relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene (played with soul and feeling by Hannah Richardson (Theatre includes: Cathleen & swing in Sting’s The Last Ship (USA Tour); TV Appearances include: Jimmy Kimmel Live!The Late Late Show with James Corden) is explored in the early stages of this production as we see Judas warning Jesus to avoid Mary, because she is a prostitute, with Jesus firmly reminding Judas that those who are not without sin should not judge.  



The ensemble cast is simply superb, at times extraordinary. The set itself is equally exciting  and is simplistic, moody and gloriously utilised by the cast to its full advantage – from the rusty industrial girders which complement the contemporary ambiance and feel of this production, to the lighting which is used to perfect effect, the standout moment of which is the final beam of light, illuminating the crucifixion as the story quietly reaches its climax, at odds with the frantic pace and building energy which has whizzed us through the rest of the show. And herein lies my only disappointment. My partner-in-crime for this evening’s performance was someone who doesn’t really know the story in depth, and certainly did not know this musical. Somewhere between the turbulent pace of the choreography and the relentless musicality, in the first half especially, the story seemed somehow overshadowed, and at points, unfathomable; lost in maelstrom of everything else which, for me who knows the story and the musical and can therefore piece it all together was fine, but for those like my companion who didn’t have access to that information, may arrive at the interval somewhat confused and bewildered!   



Make no mistake, this is a heavy production, with an almost visceral sense of emotional overwhelm at times, excellently crafted by the edgy choreography, the rock-God excesses of many of the numbers and the ceaseless energy of the cast. When it all threatens to become a little too heavy, we are presented with the light-hearted comedy of the combination of the deep, rumbling voice of Caiaphas (Jad Hapchi; Credits include: Jesus Christ Superstar (Frinton Summer Theatre), Dirty Dancing (Secret Cinema), Disney in Concert; As a vocalist, Jad has also been a backing singer for Andrea Bocelli and Hiba Tawaji) and Annas (Matt Bateman: Credits - Fredrik Egerman in A Little Night Music, Bernie Buchsbaum in Little Me, Stan in Don Juan in Soho and Featured Vocalist for Friday Night is Music Night, Billy/Eugene Fodor in Crazy for You). The pinnacle of this injection of humour, is most certainly the relatively short, but comedic appearance of Julian Clary (TV Credits: Sticky Moments. More TV followed, including Terry and Julian, All Rise for Julian Clary, Prickly Heat, It’s Only TV But I Like It, Strictly Come Dancing, Have I Got News For You, Who Do You Think You Are?, QI, Celebrity Big Brother, Your Face Sounds Familiar, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, Give a Pet a Home, Nature Nuts and Passions. Theatre credits: Leigh Bowery in Boy George’s Taboo (West End and UK tour), the Emcee in Rufus Norris’s Olivier Award-winning production of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret (West End) and Le Grand Mort (Trafalgar Studios), Norman in The Dresser (National Tour), Bleak Expectations (West End) as King Herod who erupts onto the stage, his excessive gold cape billowing out behind him, delivering a high-camp performance which the audience lapped up with glee.



One stand-out performance for me was Ryan O’Donnell’s (Theatre includes: Mandela - The Young Vic; The Book Thief - Octagon Theatre; Tina the Musical - Aldwych TheatreSunny Afternoon - Harold Pinter TheatreQuadrophenia the Musical - UK Tour; Television includes: The Crown Season 4 - Netflix; The Serpent - BBC One) Pilate. Initially moody, sardonic, and oozing disdain, we are treated to a metamorphosis of Pilate, seeing the change in the character unfold, to almost anguish and humility in response to the mob’s increasingly violent bloodlust for Jesus to be crucified, again, superbly portrayed via the uncomfortable, jerky convulsions of the choreography brought to life by the ensemble cast.

This is a contemporary, edgy, artistic update to an original piece of musical theatre history which is well worth experiencing. It sounds amazing. It looks incredible. It also makes use of copious amounts of shimmering glitter throughout. Really, what’s not to love?!    


WE SCORE JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR...




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