Theatre demi-gods Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice along with the help of stage director Laurence Connor have celebrated the 40th anniversary of their rock opera by updating it and staging it during an arena tour in the UK and Australia. While some staunch traditionalists who don’t like it when anything is tinkered with might not appreciated the modern interpretation of the rock opera, it is huge and great in every way.
Like most theatre or musicals the fate of it lies on the leads. The three leads in this production do a fantastic job. Tim Minchin as Judas is brilliant with all the anger, frustration and regret he brings to the role of the most famous betrayer in history. Plus the guy can sing with a voice that is very well suited to the rockier than normal songs in the production. Your eyes never leave him when he is on stage. The performer who surprised me the most was ex-Spice Girl, Sporty Spice…um, I mean Melanie Chisholm. Not only is she able to use her strong voice like she never before has, but she brings the right emotion to the role of Mary Magdalane. You believed her as a former streetwalker who fell in love with Jesus. Nary a false note in either respect. This will probably open many an eye of those who laughed her off as a pop star as being someone with true talent. The equally excellent Ben Forster was Jesus of Nazareth. A complete unknown to me he really owned the very difficult role.
In this production one thing that was the correct choice was the decision to put the live band on the stage. They were off to the side and during one scene the guitar player came out to be part of what was going on. It just gave the whole thing a bigger and more rock opera feel to it.
One thing I was hesitant about was the fact that this was an arena tour. I thought that the more intense and intimate moments might get lost in the huge environment. It wasn’t the case. At least watching the blu-ray, anyway. The set, which was a huge staircase, did not change rather some things were lowered (giant screen), raised (huge crucifix) and slid (wire fence) onto the stage. Not much props or furniture were used either.
With lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar went on to become one of the most popular musicals in the history of theatre. So popular that a film version was made. The retelling of the last week of Jesus Christ’s life seems like an odd fit for a rock musical, but it works perfectly.
-An Introduction by Andrew Lloyd Webber
-Behind the Scenes