Jesus Christ Superstar

Aug 26 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆      Creative direction

Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre (Venue 76): Tue 13 – Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Dominic Corr

Captivate Theatre rock Jesus Christ Superstar at the Rose Theatre, spotlighting some spectacular performers from the Edinburgh’s amateur theatrical scene.

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera, loosely based on the Gospel accounts of Christ’s final days, first moved from concept album onto Broadway in 1971 – with mixed reception and, of course, a heaping whack of controversy.

Oliver Payn and Colum Findlay. Pic: Captivate

Captivate Theatre has found a thoroughly modern Jesus in Oliver Payn. His Christ is one who looks at home in cords and a coffee shop – it’s a refreshing look at the son of God in mortal light.

Vocally, hitting high tenor notes, Payn fuels the definitive rock vibe of the production. Failing to develop naturally, Christ suddenly shifts into coming across as irritable – though this is a fault within Rice’s script, rather than Payn’s performance.

Judas may have sold Jesus out for thirty pieces of silver, but all is forgiven following Colum Findlay’s time in the role. Something of a narrator in the piece, Judas goes beyond clear-cut antagonist to become more as an instigator.

There’s a relatability to Findlay’s characterisation. His Judas can see the overwhelming hysteria Christ attracts and pushes for a return to the disciples’ charitable and social work over this cult of adoration. Shadowing Christ, Findlay’s presence lurks across the entire theatre as director Sally Lyall extends the stage, having him pace around the aisles and appear from behind the seating areas.

great vocal delivery

Acting as a peacekeeper of sorts, Mary Magdalene is relegated to the background for much of the production. The imbalance between Linzi Devers’ great vocal delivery and her emotional performance, which rather plays catch-up, doesn’t help. Devers’ rendition of I Don’t Know How to Love Him covers ground in making up for this, standing alongside Findlay for excellent vocal performance.

A scene from Jesus Christ Superstar. Pic: Captivate

With a powerful voice, Darren Coutts’ Pontius Pilate has glimpses of a powerful, though a sympathetic man who foreshadows the immense decision he will make. When we arrive into Pilate’s court, with the running time nearing an end, the pace is accelerated removing much of the dramatic tension.

Coutts attempts to keep his vocals in time with the score, but shortening the delivery causes awkward word pronunciations. Redeeming somewhat are The 39 Lashes which keep the timing while also getting around the physical flogging of Christ with choreographed movements in tandem with Coutts’ count.

Brett Herriot provides a Sir Elton John via Benidorm tribute act in his King Herod, giving him the required pomp and kitsch factor with which the role is synonymous – even if he is a little light on the intimidation. There is a clear sense of dread to both Zorbey Turkalp as Caiaphus and Hazel Beattie as Annas, however. Turkalp capturing that deep, forceful bass – and holding those notes throughout the show.

aspirations are lofty

As a sung-through musical, Jesus Christ Superstar is a complex one to undertake, from the underlying score to its full numbers. Its rock opera score puts the live band to the test, which for the most part they succeed in under the musical direction of Tommie Travers. Only the brass instrumentals trailing slightly due to the limiting number of musicians available.

With a running time of only an hour and thirty minutes, this production feels rather crunched up – particularly during Christ’s confrontations with Pontus Pilate and Herod. The resulting crucifixion scene highlights a difficulty for amateur productions – the use of crates to construct the crucifix is resourceful, but it makes for a quick climax rather than the gradual emotional build-up the scene can be.

Notoriously difficult, Jesus Christ Superstar is an ambitious production for Captivate Theatre to stage, one which they succeed in doing for the most part. Where aspirations are lofty, the pay-off is in offering an opportunity for the truly remarkable talents in Colum Findlay.

Running Time: One hour 30 minutes (no interval)
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, 204 Rose Street, EH2 4AZ (Venue 76)
Tuesday 13 – Sunday 25 August 2019
Daily: 3.30pm
Tickets and details:

Company website:
Facebook: @captivatetheatre
Twitter: @Captivate_LTD


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