Bristol Hippodrome

 

Jesus Christ Superstar - July 2015

 

So good we reviewed it twice:

 

The Roman soldier’s uniforms included plastic visors and Perspex shields.

And the guitar riff twanged and the disco dancers moved...so what era are we in?

Its groovy baby Austin Powers time played with biblical references from 33 AD of course.

Actually Jesus Christ Superstar is a 1970 rock opera played with all the excesses of this time thanks to the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice.

It tells the story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

This production which opened at the Bristol Hippodrome stars Glenn Carter, a role he has played in the West End, on Broadway and in a made-for-television film in 2000.

Australian musical theatre star Tim Rogers is Judas Iscariot and X Factor finalist Rachel Adedeji is Mary Magdalen.

During the first half I thought wow at last the Hippodrome is staging a family show.

Wrong – we hadn’t got to the crucifixion.

The powerful and painful scene is agony to watch and I am a non-believer.

Jesus Christ Superstar has been performed on stage and film in various guises for the past 40 years.

In 1981, Emilio de Soto directed an English-language version in Venezuela, with 163 actors.

Not counting the dozen children appearing from the Bristol School of Dance  Jesus Christ Superstar at the Hippodrome I counted a cast of 31.

It is a little short on disciples with only five or six but the vast set is topped by a huge crown of thorns and lots of palm leaf waving fill the space.

Among the standout performances on Tuesday night for me were Mary Magdalen, Judas Iscariot and the Temple high priest Ciaphas.

It is a somewhat dated rock opera with comedy, pathos and cringe moments.

But when it debuted in the early 1970s it was considered controversial and outrageous.

This was time when Poirot actor Robert Powell was slatted in the tabloids for living in sin with his dancer wife-to-be Babs when chosen for the lead film role in Jesus Of Nazareth,

And around this time the cast of Hair were letting it all hang out on stage claiming they had God on their side.

This American hippy musical opened in London one day after the abolition of theatre censorship.

And as Bob Dylan sang earlier The Times They Are A-Changin'.

Jesus Christ Superstar splits opinion on whether it is the ‘greatest story ever told’.

A Christian forum says it portrays Jesus as very human and not very divine.

He has a powerfully emotional solo called Gethsemane, in which he questions the idea of dying on the cross.

In the end, he agrees to do his Father's will, but ends the song with the challenge, ‘Take me now before I change my mind’.

‘Not very biblical but it is powerful and shows Christ in his fear and pain,’ said those purporting to be the moral majority.

And they added ‘He asks the same question any of us would ask if we were in that position, ‘Why, Lord, why?’

The title line from besotted Mary Magdalene’s big song I Don't Know How To Love Him is poignantly repeated by Judas.

And Peter denies Christ thrice...

In my gang we all loved the show but for different reasons.

I loved the hilarious tableau of the last supper, the Hosanna chorus, the camp King Herod with sparkly green eye shadow and nipple piercings, Pontius Pilate dressed like an Italian Catholic pope and the irony of how Judaism has evolved to be a separatist religion.

Oh and I loved the Paul Robeson voice of Cavin Cornwall which contrasted beautifully with the crystal pitch of Rachel Adedeji.

I would have preferred a narrator as some of the lyrics were inaudible but fellow theatre-goer comedian Eddie Large was word perfect because ‘he had the album which he plays all the time’, said wife Patsy.

The cast got the most spontaneous and well-deserved standing ovation I have witnessed at the Hippodrome for some time.

As compelling today as it was at its inception more than 40 years ago, Jesus Christ Superstar features some of musical theatre’s most legendary songs incuding Everything’s Alright and Superstar.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs until Saturday, July 25 with two matinees.

Tickets £17.90-£48.90 by clicking HERE.

Carol Deacon

 

This week Jesus Christ Superstar exploded on to the Bristol Hippodrome stage for five days of high energy performances as part of its UK wide tour and I couldn't have been more excited to revisit this Andrew Lloyd Webber classic.

Having been a lifelong fan of the rock opera in its many formats, from its original 1971 Broadway cast to its more modern interpretations of the late 90s, I was eager to discover what directors Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright (who are a familiar team with previous collaborations including Blood Brothers and Evita) had in store for us all.

The show, split into two acts, tells us the story of the last seven days of Christ’s life, along with his complex love/hate relationship with Judas Iscariot played by Tim Rogers, and the events that led up to his ultimate crucifixion.

It opens with Rogers singing Heaven On Their Minds, a song warning Jesus and his followers of the dangers ahead should they continue with their radical mission, while he is towered over by Roman guards on the dark and ominous set.

Rogers delivered a series of impressive numbers, his voice quivering and desperate in attempt to change the course they were on before manically and apologetically handing over information on Jesus’ whereabouts to the High Priests for 30 pieces of silver.

His voice was not to everyone's liking however, with one audience member suggesting he should have spent his silver pieces on singing lessons.

Of course, being a major JC Superstar groupie, I was familiar with Glenn Carter, who returned to the role of Jesus after he was first cast in 1996 and also featured in the 2000 film adaptation by Gale Edwards, alongside the late Rik Mayall as Herod.

But my initial surprise at his return was mixed with concern that this 50-something middle aged man was going to be a little too old for a character that has always suitably been accurately played by young 30-something men.

How much longer is Carter prepared to go for I wondered?

Will we be booking tickets in another 20 years to see him clutching a zimmer frame and climbing onto the cross via a stair lift?

My concerns were quickly squashed. Carter was as vibrant, talented, believable and intense as his first ever performance and age became no barrier to fulfilling a role he was clearly comfortable with.

Mary Magdalen was played by X-Factor finalist Rachel Adedeji, and while less experienced than some other cast members, she took to the role flawlessly, caring for a distressed and frightened Jesus throughout his final days, often watching events unfold from the sideline and delivering a beautiful rendition of I Don’t Know How To Love Him.

An audience favourite which drew laughter and applause was King Herod’s hysterically camp song and dance designed to ridicule Jesus during his final days.

The comic role was played by Tom Gilling who also doubled up as a strangely plump Apostle.

Another strong vocal was by Jonathan Tweedie who played a troubled and tortured Pontius Pilate.

However my personal favourite was Cavin Cornwall as the smooth and cool High Priest Caiaphas, whose tenor vocal range and creepy alien-like demeanour brought a chill to the stage.

While there were various powerful and poignant solos such as Jesus’ Gethsemane that closed Act 1 in roaring applause, a disappointment noted by myself and others was the lack of people making up the numbers in key historical scenes.

The last supper contained fewer than 12 Apostles and three extra women, while crowds appeared thin and weak around Jesus during the celebratory song Hosanna.

 Many cast members doubled up as two or more parts, which became increasingly obvious during the second act.

The set was brilliantly versatile, providing layers and contrast to show the ever changing power struggle between Jesus and his opposers during his rise and fall, while a huge halo shaped circle symbolically hovered above the stage throughout.

Unlike previous adaptation, costumes and props were kept traditional with the odd exception such as a riot shield and camera, and the dance routines took us back to the show’s 70s roots.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this energetic, thoughtful and imaginative production that recognised the story’s strengths and played to them without feeling the need to adapt or modernise too far from the original.

Emma Rowlands

Preview: Nailed to cross

 

English stage actor and singer-songwriter Glenn Carter will take the title role in Jesus Christ Super Star when it opens at the Bristol Hippodrome on Tuesday, July 21.

But according to Wikipedia Glenn isn't a Christian but a devotee of the Raëlian Movement a religion which believes humans were created by aliens!

Should make for an interesting performance.

Musical theatre star Tim Rogers plays Judas Iscariot and X Factor finalist Rachel Adedeji is Mary Magdalene.

Billed at the world's oldest story and the world's greatest rock musical it is on stage at the Hippodrome until Saturday, July 25.

Leading performer Glenn returns as Jesus, a role he has played in the West End, on Broadway and on film.

His extensive musical theatre credits include leading roles in Whistle Down the Wind, Les Misérables, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Godspell and Merrily We Roll Along.

Australian star Tim made his UK stage debut 15 years ago and hasn’t looked back since.

Tim’s musical theatre credits include The Man in Whistle Down the Wind (UK Tour and West End), West Side Story, Jersey Boys, The Full Monty, Aspects of Love and the title role in Jekyll & Hyde at the Union Theatre.

Most recently he starred in Carousel at the Arcola Theatre London.

X Factor finalist Rachel is direct from the UK and European tour of Thriller Live.

The cast also includes David Burilin, Alistair Lee, Ed Handoll, Andy Barke, Tim Oxbrow, Richard J Hunt, Johnathan Tweedie, Cellen Chugg Jones, Michael Ward and Lizzie Ottley.

Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright reunite to direct Jesus Christ Superstar, a partnership that has seen them at the helm of iconic musicals including Evita (in the West End and on tour) and Blood Brothers; a show they have directed for almost 30 years, scooping up no less than four awards for best musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway.

Jesus Christ Superstar exploded onto the musical scene in 1971.

Stunning audiences, it changed the face of musical theatre forever.

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera tells the story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

As compelling today as it was at its inception more than 40 years ago, Jesus Christ Superstar features some of musical theatre’s most legendary songs from I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Everything’s Alright, Gethsemane and Superstar.

For tickets from £17.90-£48.90 click HERE.

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