2024-02-22T17:35:00Z By Keeley Rodgers
2024-02-14T12:38:00Z By Keeley Rodgers
With such a distinguished score, this reimagined take on Jesus Christ Superstar celebrates the show’s music with clever staging and unbelievable vocalists who help bring the story into the modern day.
It’s dark, two metal structures with raised platforms can be seen on either side of the stage and guitars squeal as a hoard of dancers in plain hoodies and jogging bottoms make their way down the aisles of the theatre.
You can see members of the touring band on the raised platforms who remain in sight throughout. In fact, the set doesn’t change once, allowing your eyes to drift off every now and again as they expertly play through this iconic song book.
Jesus Christ Superstar is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary series of events during the final weeks of the life of Jesus Christ, as seen through the eyes of Judas. Reflecting the rock roots that defined a generation, the legendary score includes I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Gethsemane and Superstar, originally released as a concept album in the 1970s.
When we’re introduced to Jesus (Ian McIntosh), the long hair and white robe that everyone is expecting to see is gone, and in its place is a young man, wearing the same as everyone else. He also shows more angst than those who have taken on the role before him, offering audiences an alternative narrative to this saviour who is visibly distressed at the number of people arriving at his feet for help.
McIntosh’s vocals are stunning. His voice is soft when needed, but always has that raspy twang to return to in the heavier songs which matches the mood of this rock opera. His range is off the charts, and this is before Gethsemane’s famous high note that is hit effortlessly. This song is by far the strongest vocal performance I have ever witnessed on stage - it’s a beautifully crafted piece of theatre which starts with McIntosh and a guitar, before culminating in this roar-like wail to emphasise his character’s pain. It’s spine-tingling.
Shem Omari James’ take on Judas is just as impressive. Tasked with performing the anthem Superstar, it’s hard to take your eyes off of him as he leaps into action following an eerie sequence which sees him pay the ultimate price for betraying Jesus for silver. He even dips his hands in silver paint within a money chest to symbolise blood on his hands as it trickles down his torso.
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The music is what makes Jesus Christ Superstar a spectacular experience. It’s gritty and highly emotive and is further enhanced through some of the actors playing instruments on stage, as well as multiple microphone stands, with characters passing them on like a baton in a relay race… even the crucifixion cross is made from a speaker stand - completely out of the box, yet utterly unique.
Ryan O’Donnell’s version of Pilate is also extraordinary; dressed as a rock star with a black leather jacket which shimmers in the minimal light. His quietness is amplified when he finally caves and condemns Jesus to his fate to protect his position, belting out 39 painful lashes to the son of God in an aggressive number which sees Jesus crippled to the floor.
It’s often suggested that classic shows should be left alone, and I’m usually an avid believer in not fixing something if it isn’t broken, but perhaps I need a new outlook after this performance. It’s a bold presentation which focuses on what makes it great - the music. Go along with an open mind and you’re sure to find something to love.
We saw Jesus Christ Superstar at Milton Keynes Theatre on Monday 30th October. The tour currently runs until 17th August 2024 with more dates to be announced soon. More information can be found at uktour.jesuschristsuperstar.com.