This latest opportunity to catch Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows online is filled with drama and passionate performances – but it is difficult not to feel that the impact of the story is lost in its surroundings.
It would be fair to say that the story of the last seven days of Christ leading up to his crucifixion is probably one of the best known stories in the world. To transform it into an epic rock musical takes some boldness and imagination – which with regards to the music and lyrics is in full evidence in this collaboration between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
Having originally been conceived as a rock opera album, Jesus Christ Superstar is a powerful and dramatic way to retell this story – particularly when the music is of this high quality. Songs such as ‘Damned For All Time/Blood Money’ and ‘Heaven on Their Minds’ really strike an intense chord – particularly when performed with great gusto by the cast.
Yet, despite the power of the music, Laurence Connor’s modern take on the musical feels slightly superficial and doesn’t feel as engaging as it could – with the exception of the final few moments in which Jesus is crucified creating a suitably poignant and moving ending. This could be the fact that everything is set on a massive stage – not allowing the audience a chance to feel as connected as they could, despite the music itself making it seem suited to an arena performance. But it is also perhaps down to the fact that the modern concept doesn’t quite pay off as well as it should – yes it is theatrical and over the top but all the elements don’t come together quite as they should to make it thoroughly satisfying.
This being said, the cast all deliver powerhouse performances and are all mesmerising to watch from start to finish. In particular, Tim Minchin as Judas delivers an impressive performance that really commands the attention. He is bold, brash and utterly raw particularly with when he regrets his betrayal. Elsewhere, Mel C offers a stunning rendition of ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ that brings new meaning to the song, while providing warmth in terms of the character Mary. Ben Forster really offers plenty of soul and feeling to Jesus’s character that offers a smidgeon of an emotional core to the production which can lack elsewhere.
Overall, the power of the music suggests this is a musical that is suited to arenas – yet this production doesn’t quite manage to carry it off which is a shame given the quality of the cast.
By Emma Clarendon