JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, 4Star****, To 27 August

Lyrics by Tim Rice Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
4stars ****

Open Air Theatre, Inner Circle, Regent’s Park To 27 August
London NW1 4NU to 27 August 2016.
Mon – Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 2.15pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.

Tickets: 0844 826 4242
Review: William Russell 22 July.

Judas Iscariot rocks and is the superstar
Although conceived as a stage show Jesus Christ Superstar actually started life as a double record album, and then toured America in a concert version before arriving in an apparently totally over the top version on Broadway. When it reached London in 1972 it was with a totally different less flamboyant staging and a very good cast.

It ran until 1980. The problem has always been the book. Act one is dramatically inert and it is only after Jesus has been betrayed that it starts to hold the attention in Act two. Faced with a rock oratorio which is really a rock concert director Timothy Sheader has opted to treat it as a concert.

There is a hideous set consisting of some rusty girder constructions where the orchestra perch, and a vast rusty cross prone on the stage serves as a cat walk and the table for the last supper Leonardo style. If the start is sluggish by the time darkness has fallen, however, Declan Bennett’s lacklustre Jesus having been reduced to a fugitive from a Mel Gibson movie drenched in blood, things get quite moving, even if it is show business rather than religion that is the order of the day.

The large ensemble work very hard, do lots of dancing involving much jumping up and down on the spot and hand waving; Peter Caulfield does a lovely high camp turn drenched in gold lame and then in nothing much as Herod; David Thaxton drenched in mascara glowers and sings splendidly as Pontius Pilate; and Anoushka Lucas warbles as if she was wooing the X Factor judges as Mary Magdalen, all breathy throbs and choking. She also gets the best songs to sing.

But the star of the evening is undeniably Tyrone Huntley as Judas, a small, charismatic figure who seizes the attention, is patently madly in love with Jesus, and oozes star quality. As Jesus, Declan Bennett sporting a hideous haircut does what is asked of him well enough, but he could be any one of the apostles for all the impression he makes.

As one would expect, Sheader has put it all together with great efficiency, lots of coloured smoke and gold body paint, while the band plays up a storm but the show remains a great record album rather than a great musical.

Jesus: Declan Bennett.
Judas: Tyrone Huntley.
Mary: Anoushka Lucas.
Pilate: David Thaxton.
Herod: Peter Caulfield.
Caiaphas: Cavin Cornwell.
Annas: Sean Kingsley.
Peter: Phil King.
Simon Zealotes: Joel Harper-Jackson.
Ensemble: Ashley Andrews; Will Barratt; Billy Cullum; Joshua Dever; Omari Douglas; Simon Hardwick; Shanay Holmes; Raquel Jones; Bobbie Little; Sinead Long; Genesis Lynea; Gloria Obianyo; Rosa O’Reilly; Joseph Prouse; Charlotte Riby; Cameron Sharp; Barnaby Thompson; Rhys Whitfield.

Director: Timothy Sheader.
Designer: Tom Scott.
Musical Director: Tom Deering.
Choreographer: Drew McOnie.
Lighting Designer: Lee Curran.
Sound Designer: Nick Lidster for Autograph.
Fight Director: Kate Waters.

2016-07-24 12:07:24

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