Jesus Christ Superstar – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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Disciples surrounded by supporting cast raising Jesus Christ on their shoulders in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar – Review

Bradford Alhambra, November 2015

by Sandra Callard

Rice and Lloyd Webber’s massively successful rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar has been thrilling audiences for over forty years and is touring once more.

The story needs no description, and the cast is an experienced and professional team, with Jesus being played once again by Glenn Carter, who has been reprising the role for around twenty years. He does carry the role well, in spite of the years, and has a strong and melodic voice, which is tainted here and there by a falsetto scream at the end of certain songs. For me it is disturbing and unpleasant, and spoils an otherwise good voice, which comes to the fore in his beautiful rendition of ‘Gethsemane’.

His Jesus is a complex mix of gentleness, fear and manipulation, as he makes his wavering way towards the cross. His ambiguous relationship with Mary Magdalene puts him one step nearer a man, as she caresses and consoles him the night before his death.

Mary is played by Rachel Adedeji, who at times seems almost unaffected by the dramatic events surrounding her. She seems more concerned about her love for Jesus than by his imminent death. She has an unusual but lovely voice. It lifts her to the heights as she sings the show’s anthem, ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’.

“Full of emotion”

For me, though, the real star of the show is Tim Rogers, who once again plays the betrayer, Judas Iscariot. He so clearly depicts his doubts about the road Jesus is taking that in his dreadful guilt at the outcome of his betrayal, we see a real and flawed human being, rather than the monster of legend. His acting is superb, as is his voice, which is powerful and full of emotion.

There is a wonderful comic interlude when King Herod appears in all his overweight glory to taunt and insult Jesus as ‘King of the Jews’. Tom Gilling is Herod, and his masterful interpretation of the egotistical monarch as he struts happily to the catchy ‘Herod’s Song’, with his acolytes fawning and laughing, is both ghastly and hilarious.

Johnathan Tweedie as an ineffectual Pontius Pilate is perfect. His pathetic attempts to discard any blame for the death of a man he clearly sees as innocent are dramatic. I also loved the performance of Neil Moors as Caiaphas, the High Priest, and Alistair Lee as Annas, the two moving forces for the execution of Jesus. Moors’ extremely resonant baritone, and Lee’s lighter voice, were both ultra-clear and precise. Every word carried easily to the audience.

“Atmospheric”

The final crucifixion scene is harrowing and realistic, without actually showing the full horror of the process. The raising of the cross is quite stunning and moving. Glenn Carter paints a picture of horror and pain which can only be a fraction of the real thing. Nevertheless, it had the audience spellbound.

One or two nit-picking points; please take away the blond ringletted wig worn by Carter as Jesus. I know it has been standard for years, but for years it has annoyed me. Middle Eastern people are invariably dark haired, as were every other member of the cast. Also, Carter’s physical reactions on the cross are all too plainly forced. The reality would have been horrific and impossible to replicate. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s not this.

Other than that, Jesus Christ Superstar is fantastic, the music completely atmospheric, and the songs wonderful. It is fast moving into the realms of classic musicals, an accolade it richly deserves.

images: Pamela Raith

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