Jesus Christ Superstar

Yesterday evening, my parents and I popped down to Bristol (not exactly a short journey) to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Bristol Hippodrome. I’ve only seen the musical live once, in Hungary a while back, and I was rather looking forward to seeing it again.

Jesus Christ Superstar is, in my opinion, a good musical which tells a rather exceptional story which, with insightful direction and a talented cast, can become something great. The cast for last night was exceptional and the design and direction, overall, something rather special.

I must admit that I like Jesus Christ Superstar. As I said above, I feel that the musical itself is not the best show ever. The songs, with a few exceptions, aren’t that special. However, it is working with some amazing material – whether you follow the faith or not it’s a powerful story – and this musical makes that story accessible, in my opinion for people of all beliefs.The musical doesn’t force the audience to accept that Jesus is anything supernatural but allows for that jump to be taken if individuals feel that it fits.  It’s the story of human emotions in exceptional circumstances. 
And, that is where the cast were brilliant. Every member succeeded in conveying a rounded character (when called for). Vocally everyone was strong and worked together well with a mixture of tones and vocal textures. The dance parts were impressive, with every member really into it and looking like they relished every moment of being up there performing. There are a couple of the non-lead/chorus cast members that I will be looking up when I have my programme to hand and I will be keeping an eye on where they go next!

The only person who I wasn’t 100% struck on was Rachel Adedeji as Mary Magdalene but then I think it takes someone truly out of this world to bring that character to life for me, particularly in the first act. I warmed to Adedeji’s performance as Mary’s character became more interesting in act two so we’ll blame the fact that I don’t like Jesus Christ Superstar’s Mary Magdalene much rather than the actress. In fact, my parents spoke very highly of Adedeji and using good old youtube I’ve looked her up and find that I quite like her voice too.

Anyway, I can’t speak about every brilliant cast member or I would have to write about each of them in turn so I will focus on the highlights, as agreed by my family!

Seeing Glenn Carter as Jesus was one of the reasons I booked this show. His performance in the 2000 recording was exceptional and became my benchmark for the role. It’s a lot to live up to live, and fifteen years on, but Carter managed to do just that. His dedication to the character, and to portraying both emotional and physical anguish, is something rather incredible.

The cast also included the wonderful Cavin Cornwall as Caiphas, something I didn’t actually realise until I arrived and bought the programme. Wow, what a voice! The other thing that struck both me and my parents (who both mentioned him as their ‘favourite’) was just how graceful he was on stage. The character seemed in control, powerful and menacing through the sheer elegance and poise he showed.

Finally, Tim Rogers as Judas was wonderful. It took me a while to warm up to him… but then ‘Heaven on Their Minds’ seemed a bit out in terms of sound tech so one does wonder. However, Rogers portrayed a Judas who I grew to love. You ever get that feeling where you want to go up and hug a character? Lets just say that his suicide had my mother and I in tears. My dad’s a toughie. It was acted exquisitely. And ‘The Last Supper’ was wonderful with Rogers and Carter playing off against each other vocally in such a way that both were able to showcase their (rather great) abilities.

And while we’re talking of great acting we have to mention the intensity of the second act. I joked with my parents that we should leave after act one… before it all goes to pot! I actually don’t know how to put the second act into words. It features a couple of distinct scenes of obvious violence – the whipping scene and the crucifixion itself – and each of these scenes are drawn out much longer than is comfortable. There is no gratuitous violence and gore but the emotional reaction of the characters is more than enough. There’s no way that an audience can go away untouched from a performance like this.

The curtain call was rather short. The clapping wasn’t overly enthusiastic. There was no standing ovation. Walking out into the street I could hear people discussing the performance in a most positive fashion. The truth is that, at the time of the curtain call I think we were all to shell-shocked to actually show our appreciation fully straight afterwards.

I can’t get moments of the show out of my head. It was an astounding piece of art. Part of me wants to see it again. Part of me needs to give my emotions some serious time to recover.

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