Jesus Christ Superstar

Aug 22 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆      Fraught

Gilded Balloon at Rose Street: Wed 15 – Sun 26 Aug 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

The doubts of Jesus as he waits for his death are brought to the fore in Captivate Theatre’s all-singing all-dancing production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Rose Street Theatre.

This is a company which has intensity and musical ability by the bucket full. But when they turn the former up to eleven from the beginning, it leaves them with little room for subtlety, let along meaning, in a production which tries so hard that it fails to do its source material the justice it deserves.

Captivate Theatre Jesus Christ Superstar Gilded Balloon at Rose Street EdFringe 2018 Oliver Payn. Pic Rae Mitchell Photography

Oliver Payn. Pic: Rae Mitchell Photography

The focus of Tim Rice’s lyrics in what is a mostly sung-through rock musical is, ironically, Judas, the betrayer of Jesus. And Andrew Lloyd Webber certainly gives him some of the best tunes. He gets to introduce the whole piece circling the stage as he sets up the drama of Christ’s final week before His crucifixion.

And despite walking off holding a knotted rope noose just before Jesus’s final trial at the hands of Herod, he gets to lead the chorus in a mocking reprise of the title number.

Colum Findlay certainly has the look and the demeanour to carry off the role. He prowls and struts like a cross between Jim Morrison and Eddie Izzard on a bad hair day. And when he returns to lead that final chorus he is no ghost – his voice is pure rock god, a powerhouse of guttural, roaring effect as it screeches and plummets around the tune in a powerful vindication of initial thoughts

Sadly Findlay, who has possibly the most versatile male voice in the production, brings exactly the same technique to the early introductory number, Heaven on Their Minds. And while it might be suitable for a triumphant rock-out finale, it does nothing for the scene setting number, so you never get to understand what it is that Judas was cross about in the first place.


Without any comprehensible words, the only meaning available to the audience is that indicated by Findlay’s manner or from Sally Lyall’s set.

A scene from Jesus Christ Superstar with Kadee Fraser (left), Colum Findlay (centre standing) and Oliver Payn (foreground). Pic Captivate

A scene from Jesus Christ Superstar with Kadee Fraser (left), Colum Findlay (centre standing) and Oliver Payn (foreground). Pic Captivate

This Judas is certainly cross with Jesus – but he also shows the sort of affection you might expect from a spurned lover. Given the show’s modern dress, balaclava head-gear and use of hip hop dance moves, the set – lots of boxes building a wall – brings to mind the contemporary West Bank barrier.

There is a lot better to come, however. Kadee Fraser is properly brilliant as Mary Magdalene. At first she chimes in with the production and starts I Don’t Know How to Love Him with the same overblown attitude that pervades the whole piece.

But once she gets into the number she has a chance to let it subside a bit, using the phrasing and her delivery to give the words a greater depth so she can bring something quite new to it. Here, at last, is a performer who is able to create complex character through her delivery while making the meaning completely clear.

Oliver Payn wanders around quite convincingly as Jesus. Mostly he has the feeling of a hands-off Messiah, one who is resigned to his fate, happy to let Mary minister to his needs and, despite the occasional doubt, is happy to let events take their course.

utterly thrilling

Elsewhere, Zorbey Turkalp hits the low notes in the best way possible as the high priest Caiaphas, who instigates the whole political manoeuvring by the establishment to kill Jesus. Turkalp’s bass voice is utterly thrilling in This Jesus He Must Die, with Hazel Beattie providing excellent support as Annas.

There are some great sequences elsewhere, too. The second act sequence where Jesus yo-yos between Darren Coutts’ Pilate and Rory Kempsell’s Herod is great, with a particularly well staged King Herod’s Song that has Kempsell revelling in Herod’s decadence.

The support is strong and for the most part sympathetically given all round. Brett Herriot, Alison Castle and T-J Connell step up with suitable support as Priests – there is definitely politics at work here. While Liam Forrester as Peter and Lewis Kerr as  Simon, the two named apostles, ensure that their parts in the story are clearly understood.

Captivate Theatre has a justifiably strong reputation for its musicals, both at the Fringe and year-round in Edinburgh. The skill with which productions like Les Miserables and Annie are staged shows that it is a company that understands what it is doing.

Sadly, this production – despite some stunning and genuinely five star moments – fails to capture the meaning of its material. Anyone wanting bravura moments and show-off performances will be most happy, but those seeking a great production of Jesus Christ Superstar will still have further to look.

Running time – one hour 40 mins (including interval)
Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre (venue 76), 204 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AZ
Wednesday 16 – Sunday 26 August 2018.
Daily: 5pm
Tickets and details:

Captivate Theatre website:
Facebook: @captivatetheatre
Twitter: @Captivate_LTD


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Comments (1)

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  1. Anon says:

    Strongly disagree with this review. One of the best musicals I’ve seen in Edinburgh Fringe, incredibly impressive from an amateur group. Judas had a voice that anyone in musical theatre would simply kill to have, and brings something fresh and interesting to the role, he was the star of the show for me! The entire company had an abundance of energy, but that does not mean that they had no where to go, they knew exactly when and where to apply it. The meaning of the show was perfectly conveyed and modernisation really worked. 5 stars from me!