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Sarah Crown
Theatre Correspondent
7:55 AM 25th June 2024
arts

A Fabulous Rock Musical - Jesus Christ Superstar

 
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Jesus Christ Superstar was one of the earliest shows resulting from the collaboration between Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber and for this production currently touring around the UK, has been completely overhauled and dragged into the 21st Century by Director Timothy Sheader.

Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
For those unfamiliar with the story, it is set in Jerusalem and through the eyes of Judas and it follows Jesus’ last few days of life as he experiences the pain of love, betrayal and ultimately his crucifixion.

Ian McIntosh is outstanding in the lead role of Jesus, his acting was such that the audience could almost feel his emotional pain of being misunderstood and ostracised as well as the pain of his physical torture and eventual crucifixion. He also possessed an excellent singing voice – his rendition of Gethsemane was exceptionally moving as Jesus wrestled with his decision to sacrifice himself for the greater good of mankind.

Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Shem Omari James played the role of Judas and once again we were treated to a display of raw emotion as he battled internally with his decision to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, cleverly symbolised by the use of silver powder covering his lower arms and hands. The permanent staining of his forearms meant he could never escape the guilt he subsequently felt about his betrayal.

Mary was played by Hannah Richardson and it was her privilege to perform one of the most well-known numbers from the show I Don’t Know How To Love Him which was beautiful.

Jad Habchi as Caiaphas and Matt Bateman as Annas were brilliant in their role as the Pharisees who insisted on Jesus being crucified. Similarly, Ryan O’Donnell as Pilate imperiously held the audience in his hand as he delivered his performance of the trial by Pilate.

Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Although incongruous, Timo Tatzber as King Herod delivered some light relief in Act 2, both in actions an appearance.

Eloise Davies from the ensemble took the part of the mob leader - her movements and general energy were a credit to Drew McConie’s choreography.

The set design by Tom Scutt doesn’t change throughout the performance and is made up from various pieces of scaffolding. There is a giant crucifix on stage not allowing the audience to forget the final outcome. Microphone stands are used creatively, being constantly passed around by both the principles and the large ensemble.

The choreography was fabulous and frequently used a ripple effect as more and more performers joined in the same movements perhaps intended to highlight how Jesus’ followers were increasing in numbers a consequence of which was his perceived increasing threat to those in authority.

The live band, under the direction of Grant Walsh were placed in each corner of the stage and the balance achieved between themselves and the vocalists was excellent. Generally the lyrics were audible and clear, the only exception being Judas whose lyrics were indistinct and somewhat difficult to follow. Notably, Jesus and Pilate added to their accompaniments as they played guitar as they sang.

Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
There are some very uncomfortable moments, memorably one, as Pilate counts out the thirty lashes of the whip that Jesus is subjected to as the baying crowd watch on. Each lash is visually represented by metallic glitter and seems to go on forever. Throughout all ages, people can be cruel and brutal against those they are fearful of due to fear, ignorance, or just the fact that some are different from themselves.

I think the show is a fabulous rock musical but I can well understand it may not be to everyone’s taste. However, the theatre was packed to the rafters and if you could measure audience appreciation on a scale of one to ten, this evening’s performance would undoubtably score an unbeatable ten out ten.

Sheffield Lyceum Until 29th June
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas