Jesus Christ Superstar

April 8, 2015 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✭✩    Star quality

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 6 – Sat 11 April 2015

Seventies rock bombast and the story of the death of Jesus are brought together to thrilling effect in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s early rock musical, which lights into the Playhouse for a week.

Whether it quite hangs together as a coherent entity is another matter entirely, as Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s production twists and turns from one point of view to another.

Glenn Carter as Jesus Christ. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Glenn Carter as Jesus Christ. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

If it is framed with no little amount of lustre, it is a largely static production that feels stripped back to to its elemental parts.

Conventionally, Superstar uses the voice of Judas to find its way into the final week of Jesus’ life. And this production does just that, giving Tim Rogers a stillness and calm as he questions the role that Jesus has come to play in Roman-occupied Judea.

After his big opening moment in Heaven on Their Minds, Rogers’ Judas has doubts, but doesn’t get the angst he might. As a consequence he rather slips into the background, as does the irony over the vital role this most reviled individual plays in the Holy Week story.

Instead focus wanders – briefly – over to Mary Magdalene, who Tim Rice suggests is a former sex worker without being too specific about it. Rachel Adedeji has the stage presence, and a likeable enough voice, but her defining number: I Don’t Know How to Love Him, rather arrives out of nothing and leaves it as it found it.

The music and lyrics are all there, but the meaning is not brought out as it might be.

Which is not a problem that the wonderfully-voiced Cavin Cornwall has in the role of Caiaphas. His voice seems to coil up from somewhere deep beneath the Temple Rock, dark and threatening as he glides across the stage. Echoing how Caiaphas, head of the Jewish priests, decides that this upstart Jesus is causing too much trouble and must die. The performance of the evening.

The bad news for fans of ex-X Factor stars is that Rhydian Roberts was indisposed for the opening night at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Whether he will be well enough to return before the end of the week is another matter – officially the theatre are working on a “day-by-day” basis.

The good news for fans of Superstar is that his understudy, Johnathan Tweedie, is easily up to the key role of Pilate. His Pilate’s Dream maybe doesn’t have the depth it might, but when it comes to the latter parts of the story, and Pilate’s attempts to find a reason to not send Jesus for crucifixion, then Tweedie begins to own the part.

Tom Gilling as Herod. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Tom Gilling as Herod. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

The other villain in Jesus’ downfall is King Herod – to whom Pilate initially sends Jesus to for sentencing. Tom Gilling – naked to the waist apart from tasselled nipple pasties – has a ball with Herod’s Song, lasciviously tempting Jesus to perform a miracle for him and sending him back when he refuses.

The slightly piecemeal approach taken by Tomson and Kenwright gives them plenty of space to reinstate the role of Jesus Christ, whose character in the show can sometimes become subsidiary to the role it plays in the story.

Glenn Carter does not let them down, particularly in Gethsemane which here becomes the final, high point of Act One, instead of being buried deep into Act Two. The focus, then, is on Jesus’ own doubts, His fears for His own death – even though He believes that it will lead Him to salvation.

The overall effect is to focus on Jesus as an individual, particularly in the final son-et-lumiere effects which illuminate the crucifixion. And as such, while its seventies sensibilities cling to it, from the power chords to the make-up of the cast, this is a Jesus Christ Superstar that reflects a contemporary preoccupation with the individual.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA

Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 April 2015.
Daily: 7.30pm; Matinees Weds, Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/jesus-christ-superstar/edinburgh-playhouse/
Tour website: http://www.jesuschristsuperstar.com/uktour/

Jesus Chris Superstar on tour 2015:
06 – 11 April Edinburgh
Playhouse Theatre
0844 871 3014 Book online
13 – 18 April Manchester
Palace Theatre
0844 871 3019 Book online
20 April – 2 May Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
6 – 11 May Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
14 – 18 July Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7652 Book online
21 – 25 July Bristol
Bristol Hippodrome
0844 871 3012 Book online

ENDS

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