Theatre Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney (07.06.13)

Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the most loved rock operas in history. Penned by the renowned Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, it was first staged on Broadway in 1971. The plot is based loosely on the Gospels’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life, and focuses on the struggle between Judas Iscariot and Jesus. The cleverness with which the plot has been portrayed has led it to become a favourite across all generations. This production of Jesus Christ Superstar, featuring Tim Minchin as Judas and Melanie C as Mary Magdalene, is an astoundingly creative production that deserves the hype surrounding it.

I loved the use of video backdrops to set the scene – what was on the screen supported what was happening on stage wonderfully. However, if you had seats far from the stage (particularly at a massive venue like the Entertainment Centre) it would be slightly hard to gather what was happening as at times having the set backdrop compromised the live streaming closeups. The placement of the band on either side of the stage worked really well, and the whole band and chorus were incredibly accomplished.

When the show started, it immediately became very clear that many of the people I was sitting around were very familiar with and emotionally attached to the show, and I think a mark of this production’s success was that the whole crowd was appreciative from start to finish (the night ended in a completely deserved standing ovation). Director Laurence Connor along with his creative team have come out with a risky adaptation, but it has most certainly paid off. I loved how without manipulating the lyrics, the songs made so much sense in a contemporary context – I think this is a genius interpretation. Also, I have to mention Andrew O’Keefe as King Herod, who threw in a hilarious and relevant reference to Eddie Obeid. This production just goes to show how timeless the rock opera – and on a larger scale, the story behind it – is.

The main cast was spellbinding. I’ve been a fan of Tim Minchin’s for a long time, and seeing him as Judas in this production was definitely a treat – he did it so well. Ben Forster, in the role of Jesus Christ, was excellent too – great technical work as well as expression. Spice Girl Melanie C had a heartbreaking, fantastic solo with “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”. Cavin Cornwall was a stand out for me – his low, rich singing tone was at times astounding. I think the casting was really good and the team seemed to gel well together onstage.

There were no major glitches, save Simon Zealotes’ (played by Rory Taylor) microphone not working in his main number halfway through Act 1, “Simon Zealotes/Poor”. This was frustrating, but the ‘show must go on’ mentality was clear through the team and they carried on, displaying their total professionalism. We did not get to hear Taylor’s first verse, but the problem was thankfully rectified following the first chorus of the number.

Laurence Connor and his team have presented an amazing reinterpretation of Jesus Christ Superstar, making it relevant to our day and age while preserving the crux of it. People new to it and old fans alike are sure to enjoy this well-executed and well-thought-out production.