Thursday, 2 April 2015

REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, tells one of the World’s most well-known and important stories. The show has been wowing audiences all over the globe since the 1970s and this touring production arrives in Woking at a topical time of year with Easter just days away.  Opening with Judas and his concerns with the influential Jesus and culminating with his crucifixion, the show tells rather than preaches. The writers knew this musical was a risk when it was being developed but the audience on opening night here clearly disagreed, rising to their feet.

The music is pacey, rocky and electric and helps bring the story to life and keeps the show tight and concise. The ensemble are energetic and fizzing with stage presence and it is the supporting cast who really shine tonight. Cavin Cornwall was a booming and towering Caiaphas, Tom Gilling injected humour and campness to the show with King Herod while Kristofer Harding led the ensemble to the shows biggest, most memorable and funkiest number with Simon Zealotes.

Unfortunately the chemistry between Judas and Jesus was non-existent and Tim Rogers as Judas struggled vocally from the off. This meant the show didn’t really kick into gear until the Priests sang “This Jesus Must Day”. Their performance was restrained, controlled and eerie and evoked a real sense of panic and fear around the unknown and socially powerful Jesus.

Their performance helped Glenn Carter’s Jesus as we felt the weight of expectation upon his shoulders. The character of Judas though, meant the ensemble (and the audience) had to work harder to warm to Jesus and for us to care about his plight. Glenn Carter was an assured and professional lead who allowed his supporting cast the chance to take centre stage and shine.

Confident performances from both Jonathan Tweedie (Rhydian Roberts understudy) and Rachel Adedeji (Mary). Tweedie gave a measured enactment of Pilate while Adedeji brought warmth and real heart to the role, taking the audience on her journey.

At times the production didn’t seem to know what era it was set. Largely this seemed rooted in biblical Jerusalem with flashes of modernity such as the camera flashes and hand held microphones. This jarred with the otherwise simplistic and cohesive staging and theming and detracted from an otherwise solid production. This timeless story and enduring musical shows no sign of slowing just yet.

Review by Andy Edmeads 


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