Having read Lyn Gardner's one star review in The Guardian for this new arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock musical I was a little worried that the performance of show would suffer with the ambitious new staging. I can honestly say I disagree entirely and Jesus Christ Superstar is a true phenomenon. I'm happy to defend the show entirely.
In this new adaptation, last years riots form the setting of the story. Just as rioting plans spread through social media, Jesus uses a similar tactic to spread his word.
ITV Superstar winner Ben Forster stars as Jesus, and proving every doubter wrong that indeed someone on the show was more than capable of being Jesus. I actually think that Superstar matched and exceeded a lot of the talent on any TV talent search before. Ben's Jesus is powerful and expertly sung. Gethsemane was most definitely a highlight of the show, with the stage action pausing immediately after to allow for a very lengthy applause. Tim Minchin is superb in the role of Judas Iscariot. Melanie C is a far cry from a Spice Girl here and is an impressive Mary Magdalene. Other stand-out performances come from musical theatre veteran Alexander Hanson as Pontius Pilate and Giovanni Spano as Simon is perfection in his rendition of 'Simon Zealotes'. Pete Gallagher as Caiaphas is a mighty bass. The ensemble, led by dance captain Russell Smith are energetic and exciting. Chris Moyles has a relatively easy job in comparison with his cameo as Herod which injects some fun and musical campness to the proceedings.
Mark Fisher's set as first appears to be a simple set of stairs, but they soon transform, with a variety of functions. The cross is impressive, and bright enough to light the arena alone, it must be very hot for Jesus up there beside those bulbs! The show works well in an arena, and the sound fills the space easily. My only problem is that being sat at the back of the arena it was difficult at times to make out who was who. There was a large screen at the back of the stage that didn't always show the action, but instead a building or 'backdrop' to suggest a location. The intimacy you would get in a theatre is completely lost and the stage was just too far away. You could only truly focus on what the screens decided to show you, rather than what you wanted to see.
Overall, the evening was enjoyable and the show holds it's own as a theatrical spectacle. JCS no doubt has paved the way for other theatre-based musicals making the transition to the arena, with the Ben Elton and Queen hit We Will Rock You embarking on a world arena tour in 2013. If there are tickets left for your hometown JCS is worth it for the experience alone.
You can buy the DVD and BluRay of the arena tour here:
Book tickets here: