Jesus Christ Superstar
Graham Whalan | 19 Mar 2019 15:31pm
“Hosanna, hey-sanna” – this show is a triumph!
With Easter around the corner this is the perfect time to be taken on a musical journey through the last seven days of Christ’s life on Earth. But the Abbey Musical Society’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar is so much more than that. This is a portrayal that is as musically stirring and intense as it is visually stunning and exciting.
Superstar is a known to be a show which poses many difficult challenges for amateur theatre companies, both in terms of creating an appropriate setting, the sensitive nature of the content, the complex score, and indeed the challenging roles and demanding vocals. It is therefore a great credit to all involved in this production that they managed to face all of these with such confidence and style.
The part of the central character, Jesus is one which requires a wide vocal range and this is where, in his pivotal song, Gethsemane, Dave Stockton came into his own. Throughout the rest of the piece he managed to convey Christ’s sense of destiny and isolation, in the face of his inner torment as he approached the inevitable. This all added to the power of the final crucifixion scene which I found both disturbing and very moving.
In the character of Judas, Chris Barker’s strong vocal performance also provided a convincing portrayal of a confused and conflicted man who was ultimately the victim of his own passion. His eventual suicide was very cleverly staged and, although we all knew it was coming, it was still shocking.
For me though, the outstanding vocal performance came from Ailsa McIntosh’s devoted Mary Magdalene, most evident in the richness and purity of her voice as she delivered Mary’s keynote song, I Don’t Know How to Love Him. I was equally impressed with the harmonious blending of her voice with that of George Melvin’s, in the role of Peter, for Could We Start Again Please?
The sonorous voices of Owen Thompson and Alastair Roe as High Priests Caiaphas and Annas added an appropriate air of menace to their scenes, complemented by the sense of threat and danger provided by the four dark, hooded figures who accompanied them – reminiscent I thought of the sinister Death Eaters in the Harry Potter films. Meanwhile when Russell Brown appeared with his troupe of dancing follies, he was in danger of stealing the show with his flamboyant portrayal of King Herod. He successfully injected a much-needed dash of humour and liveliness at a time when things were in danger of turning disturbingly dark.
The vocal performances are of course only one part of the whole. As a ‘rock opera’ it is the music which drives the show forward, and the quality and professionalism of the orchestra here, led by MD, Angela Guntrip, added hugely to the overall emotional impact of the entire piece.
Mention must also be made of the ensemble, who were all equally terrific, clearly giving total commitment to their important task of conveying the contrasting atmospheres of exhilarated hero-worship in Act 1, and the frenzied hostility of the mob in Act 2. They were undoubtedly aided in this by the creative choreography of the experienced Sarah Powell. The other members of the creative team, Russell Brown and Nick Collinge, as Director and Producer respectively, also deserve credit for their success in harnessing the energy and talent of all involved to produce a most satisfying piece of theatre. Having said that I appreciate that the setting of Christ’s passion in a modern rock musical does not suit everyone, but I think it’s fair to say that the Abbey Society successfully struck just the right balance between the spiritual and the secular. In short, if this show does not take your breath away then you are clearly not getting out enough.
- : admin
- : 18/03/2019