Bit of a first for me, as I now own a house in the country, which is an inconvenient train ride away from Manchester (looking at 1am for getting home), so I decided that I’d stay over in Manchester tonight. Not only does it make life easier for me with my health issues, but it also means that I have higher standards expected from the production, as to me, this is no longer ‘local’ theatre, whereas it was when I lived in the city, and it was on my doorstep.
Every reviewer has a handful of musicals which are ‘theirs’. Most stuff we review, we are passionately opinionated about, but there are always a special few for each of us which are sacred (excuse the pun) – Jesus Christ Superstar is in that group for me. Without doubt, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice at their peak!
I always get a lot of stick for saying this, but the filmed 2000 version produced by the Really Useful Group themselves is my favourite staging and cast. With that in mind, I was greatly looking forward to seeing Glenn Carter back in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, though I confess to having seen him ‘live’ on stage in the role once before too. As usual Glenn Carter smashed it out of the park. I could rave for ages and tell you why he’s my favourite musical Jesus, but my fingers would get sore with all the typing!!
The other person standing out for me was the inimitable Cavin Cornish (who I’m also a huge fan of), playing Caiaphus with a magnificently dulcet baritone – I’ve seen so many other productions of this show fail as their Caiaphus can’t get the low notes.
If you’re the sort of person who cares about celebrity casting over performance, sadly, this review probably isn’t for you – I felt that Rachel Adedeji was a forgettable Mary Magdalene (sorry love – I voted for you in X-Factor though!) and Rhydian Roberts appeared to have phoned in sick, with Jonathan Tweedie competently stepping in, which, having seen Rhydian before, was a massive relief.
Unfortunately, you can tell that Bill Kenwright has his hands all over this one. As usual, a pretty uninspiring set, “celebrity shoe-horning” and everything just felt a little ‘cheap’ – including something which makes me rather angry – there’s no cast list on the official website – he only promotes the appearance of his “star” cast members – very naughty and disrespectful!! There is s shockingly lacking web and social media presence too, to unify the production.
Additionally, I want to spotlight some questionable choreography from Carole Todd.
Judas is THE role in musical theatre that I’d always want to have, to be honest. Perhaps this makes me ovely-critical, but I was not enamoured by Tim Rogers‘ vocal choices for the character, and I didn’t feel the chemistry between Judas and Jesus as is intended – I lay this at Judas’ feet to be honest.
I do think that everybody did a sterling job with what they were given, but the real stars were, of course, the orchestra who absolutely belted out the fantastic rock opera score with aplomb.
I think that I enjoyed the night more as a Jesus Christ Superstar fanboy than I did as a paying customer.