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Jesus Christ Superstar - King's Theatre, Glasgow

Published by: Sean Stirling on 7th Oct 2015 | View all blogs by Sean Stirling

Jesus Christ Superstar

Nearly 45 years after the concept album of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s seminal rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar was released comes a new UK tour which this week makes its home at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow.

 The story, in case you didn’t know, follows the events leading up to, and including, the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth but is told from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who would betray Jesus to the high priests.  Judas admires Jesus greatly but is critical of his growing popularity and the threat he might pose to the Roman Empire.

 The score is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most thrilling and, in my opinion, is probably the greatest rock opera of that genre. It boasts such iconic numbers as Heaven On Their Minds, I Don’t Know How To Love Him and Gethsemane as well as its famous title track.

There have been many ground breaking productions in recent years that successfully place the story in a contemporary setting.  Gale Edwards’ West End production presented a Pontius Pilate that would not have looked out of place as a leader of the Third Reich while the recent arena tour, starring Mel C and Tim Minchin, which took the London riots and occupancy movement as its inspiration.  This new production, directed by Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright, takes a much more traditional approach using period costume.

Reprising his performance in the title role is Glenn Carter,  He had previously played the role when Gale Edwards’ production transferred to Broadway and also on the filmed DVD of that production.  While he might be considered a little long in the tooth for the role (this is nothing compared to Bill Kenwright’s current casting of Tommy Steele in the title role of The Glenn Miller Story) Carter still possesses the vocal chops required for what is a very vocally demanding role. He is not helped by the fact that a very unflattering robe makes him look older.

In the role of Judas Iscariot, who really is the central character of the piece, is Tim Rogers.  The Australian actor is no stranger to UK audiences having appeared in tours of West Side Story, Whistle Down The Wind and The Full Monty.  Like Carter, Rogers also has some vocal acrobatics to perform which he does with great success.

 Also appearing in this production is X Factor finalist  Rachel Adedeji as Mary Magdalene.  She brings a freshness to the role with a vocal that is sweet, simple but very effective and is not over produced with traditional musical theatre belting or pop embellishments.  

 Other notable performances in this production include the wonderful basso profundo of Neil Moors as the preist Caiphas who is paired with a delightfully sinister Alistair Lee as Annas.  Jonathan Tweedie gives a commanding performance as Pontius Pilate while Tom Gilling’s Herod would not be out of place in a sketch from Little Britain.

 The strength in this production lies in its musical performance and full credit must be given to musical supervisor Tom De Keyser and musical director Tim Whiting.  This is a very demanding score to sing and while some performances air on the safe side they still do justice to this marvelous score.  I am often dubious of cut-down, keyboard led orchestras but the 7 piece band here sound excellent and the balance in sound is spot on.  Every single lyric is clear and the volume was pumped up at the appropriate rocky moments.

The production is flawed by poor direction.  None of the lead characters are given the chance to explore their roles in any great depth.  Principals are often staged like traditional opera stand and sing   which makes many moments feel like a concert performance and relationships between characters are not fully established.  Ensemble numbers are all staged with full out dance routines which in this piece felt divorced and distracted from the plot.  It almost felt like I was watching a grow-up version of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

There was also some confused moments. At one point the ensemble in period costume appeared brandishing modern day microphones and reporters pads which looked out of place.

The static set designed by Paul Farnsworth is effective, especially with the beautiful stain glass lighting design by Nick Richings.

Fans of the piece will not be disappointed with the strong cast and for those who are new to the show, then it really is a must see regardless of your religious views to hear this glorious score which resonates still despite the faults with the production.

 Jesus Christ Superstar

Tue 6 – Sat 10 Oct

Mon – Sat eves 7.30pm

Wed, Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm

Box Office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee)

www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee

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