REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar

Peter Curry is wowed by the frenzied energy of this charismatic production.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Cambridge crucifixion dancing Drama JCS jesus jesus christ Jesus Christ Superstar messiah Music Musicals Peter Curry Robinson Robinson College Singing the passion Theatre Tim Rice University of Cambridge

Firstly, I must confess that I’ve never seen Jesus Christ Superstar before, so I was a little unsure of what to expect. Secondly, I must confess that I didn’t expect to be as blown away as I was by a range of superb acting, talented vocalists and exceptional music.

There was a frenzied energy to parts of the performance, and it was warranted, but Jesus (Jamie Ewing) remained a calming figure on stage – and he was sensational, conveying emotion whilst maintaining a superb voice. He was magnificent for the entire performance. His rival Judas (James Martin) and Mary Magdalene (Katie Hook) were also fantastic, especially in the largest number of the performance. And Herod (Sam Holmes), too, was fantastic: for me, he was far more enjoyable in this adaptation of JCS, than the Herod of the 1970s film version that I watched on YouTube after the show in a desperate attempt to relive some of the magic. 

Colm Talbot (top) as Pilate, with Jamie Ewing as Jesus. (Photo Credit: Caitlin McCartney)

The lighting was consistently well executed, and it was in the darker scenes where it really shone (pun intended – not sorry), with the crucifixion of Jesus illuminated brilliantly, along with the red hair of Caiaphas (Clara Le Gargasson) and the red cape of Annas (Michael Morrison). Their acting was also delightfully evil, dripping malevolence from every pore. There was also one particularly excellent scene featuring Pilate (Colm Talbot), with the prop of a fence and the staging used creatively, along with some excellent angry-mobbing from the chorus which really stood out for me.

James Martin rocking out as Judas. (Photo Credit: Caitlin McCartney)

It wasn’t all smooth sailing however, and there were some confusing moments, such as one scene where Annas walked out with a newspaper, apparently to read up on Jesus. Perhaps there was more context here of which I was unaware, so this is forgivable. But, also, there were issues with sound, and at points the band was too loud so that the words were inaudible. This didn’t detract from the performance to a great extent though, and normally the energy and strength of the lead singers carried the performance onwards and upwards.

Mary Magdalene (Katie Hook) soothes Jesus. (Photo Credit: Caitlin McCartney)

The band was nonetheless simply amazing throughout. One solo from Rachel Mann was a particular standout, but as a collective whole, they were superb. The chorus was also excellent, and delivered consistently strong (I’m running out of synonyms for ‘amazing’ at this point) performances, perfectly supporting the leads.

JCS is definitely worth a watch. The charismatic energy of the leads and the chorus will make the time fly by. 

4.5/5 stars