One of musical theatre’s most iconic productions has taken over the Edinburgh Playhouse this week. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-celebrated, Jesus Christ Superstar is reinvented in this fresh take by The Regents Park Open Air Theatre, which won the 2017 Oliver Award for Best Musical Revival. This production brings a new life to a show over 50 years old with fresh new staging, clever choreography, and a stellar touring company.
Jesus Christ Superstar started life as a Rock concept album which gained massive popularity and went on to open in London’s West End and Broadway. The show has seen countless revivals with two movie adaptations, and a successful stadium tour in 2012. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Time Rice, both in their 20s when creating this piece, cemented this duo as an unstoppable force in Musical Theatre creating hits like Evita, and together creating Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and the West End revival of The Wizard of Oz, which arrives next week at the Edinburgh Playhouse. The appeal of Jesus Christ Superstar is in its ability to capture Jesus as a man having to deal with a level of admiration and worship, that is unimaginable. His followers want him to solve their every problem, whilst the establishment sees him as a threat to their control of the masses. Pair this epic story with some iconic songs like “I don’t know how to love him” and “Gethsemane” and the title song, “Superstar”, it’s no wonder this epic fable has gone to become a truly iconic piece of theatre.
Having to play Jesus is a huge ask for any performer, fortunately, Ian McIntosh brings so much to the part with an impressive vocal range which excels both in the lighter moments of the performance and can give power to the show’s more vocally demanding numbers. His take on Gethsemane is phenomenal with his vocals showing so much character and can give a vocal journey throughout the song with softer moments and real power when required. It is a brilliant five minutes of theatre. He can play the part vocally softer throughout the show which is a real contrast to the other performers and gives Jesus this sense of calm and peacefulness amongst the stronger almost brash vocals from other numbers and characters. Pairing him with Shem Omari James’s take on Judas is great casting. Shem is a very talented performer with effortless vocals and is brilliant as Judas. Other real standouts include Hannah Richardson’s take on Mary. Hearing many brilliant performers take on numbers like ‘Everything’s alright’ and ‘I don’t know how to love him’ over the years, there is a fear that these numbers will feel somewhat like a repeat performance, however, Hannah can give the songs emotion and make them her own. At times it felt like experiencing these songs for the first time which is very impressive having experienced them so many times prior. The full company is rich in powerful performances and gives it everything they have to deliver you an incredible experience.
Amongst the many changes within this revised production, there is clever usage of microphones, and most songs are performed directly to the audience. This allowed the music to shine and at times made it feel more like a concert than a musical. This made you as an audience member feel more part of the performance than ever before giving a level of immersion with even the performers walking through the audience at the start of the show onto stage almost like they are stepping into the story.
Jesus Christ Superstar is a fresh retelling of an iconic musical. 50 years on, it still draws a sell-out crowd and that’s testament to the brilliant music and lyrics of Tim Rice and Andrew Llyod Webber.
This review has been rated ★★★★★.
Jesus Christ Superstar runs at Edinburgh Playhouse until the 10th of February. Book here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/jesus-christ-superstar/edinburgh-playhouse. This show is on a UK tour and will be coming to Glasgow this July. For full details of all the tour dates visit: https://uktour.jesuschristsuperstar.com/