Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The musical began its life as a concept album, featuring Murray Head as Judas, Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan as Jesus and Manfred Mann’s Mike d’Abo. The show then made its Broadway debut in 1971 and West End debut the following year. This controversial musical follows the story of Jesus Christ leading up to his crucifixion.
In this production, Jesus was played by Declan Bennett (Once, American Idiot, Rent). Bennett is brilliant in the role. He portrays Jesus as an ordinary human being who is experiencing the pressures of being followed and worshipped. Bennett excels with ‘Gethsemane’ where Jesus questions his impending fate but uncertainly accepts it.
At this performance, Joshua Dever (Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Grease) played Judas, with Tyrone Huntley (Memphis, Hairspray, The Book of Mormon) playing the role full-time. Judas is the driving force behind Jesus, willing him on, but ultimately betrays him, taking silver to help the poor for disclosing Jesus’ location. Dever was spectacular in the role, giving a magnificent performance of ‘Judas’ Death’.
Anoushka Lucas (The Etienne Sisters, Klook’s Last Stand, The Lightning Child) played Mary. Lucas was sublime as Mary and her vocal performance of ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ was breathtaking and touching.
A standout number in the show is ‘Pilate and Christ/Herod’s Song’, performed by Peter Caulfield (One Man, Two Guvnors, Cinderella, Into the Woods). Caulfield’s flamboyant and comical interpretation of Herod sees him prancing around the stage, taunting and challenging Jesus to live up to the hype of his legendary abilities.
The ensemble are phenomenal throughout the show, performing Drew McOnie’s ingenious choreography perfectly.
Overall, this production is spectacular, with fantastic music and a talented cast. It tells the well-known, tragic story from an alternative viewpoint, delivering the overall message that Jesus was only a human man and yet he touched and inspired so many, making the ultimate sacrifice for them, and then asks the question: why? This production of Jesus Christ Superstar is celebrating the musical’s 45th anniversary, and is showing at the Open Air Theatre (its first outdoor performance in the UK) until 27th August, with rumours of a West End transfer.