On Monday 13 April, The Palace Theatre hosted Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’srock musical Jesus Christ Superstar, a production that tells the story of the last days in the life of Jesus Christ.
Picture first the Palace Theatre, a decadent intimate space that envelopes all of its sculptures, drapes them in luxurious red fabric, gold gilded paints and oozes all of the finery and prestige that the Palace has to offer. Yes, this is a fitting venue to showcase any great masterpiece of theatrical genius – which unfortunately, this was not. It is, however, an engaging effort nevertheless.
Let’s give you a brief introduction: Jesus Christ Superstar was born in 1970 with music by musical Godfather Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrical entrepreneur Tim Rice. The musical started as a rock opera before its debut on Broadway in 1971 and has taken theatre by storm for the last forty years.
This musical is an adaptation of the Gospel’s accounts of the last few days of Jesus’ life. To say it is a loose interpretation is an understatement, as you can’t help but wonder if it’s intention is to provoke a reaction as opposed to depicting the ‘facts’.
It begins with Jesus’ arrival with the disciples in Jerusalem – a supposedly joyous occasion – but although all other cast members gave it their all, the performance delivered by Glenn Carter, who portrayed Jesus Christ, was lacklustre, particularly during this opening scene.
Judas, on the other hand, played by Tim Roger, was both creditable and fiery. His performance exhibited a side of his character not seen before; he was not only argumentative but judgemental of Jesus and resided as Devil’s advocate throughout the performance, continually questioning Jesus’ involvement with Mary Magdalene, who was played by Rachel Adedeji.
Now this is where it gets interesting… Mary Magdalene is played by a black singer-songwriter Rachel Adedeji instead of the conventional Caucasian. Her status as prostitute was consistently foregrounded and although subtly, she was frequently observed provocatively interacting with Jesus which led me to wonder whether the link between her race and her behaviour had been forged intentionally. However, Rachel succeeded in commanding the stage with her presence and voice, especially through her renditions of ‘Everything’s Alright’ and ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’, which were truly angelic. I’m not sure what I’d been expecting but it wasn’t that. Between Rachel and Tim they inevitably upstaged Glenn. Not because his acting was especially bad – far from it – but his singing at times resembled a series of loud shrieks which visibly irritated a few theatre-goers; two children in front of me continually had their hands near their ears, just in case.
The first half was palatable, although there were star performances from Rachel Adedeji and Tim Roger even though at times it was as though he was masking the fact that some of the higher notes were unreachable for him, often disguised by even louder music.
Another outstanding performance came from Jodie Steele; she was both exhilarating and energetic and kept me transfixed on her movements and expressions throughout the whole production.
In the second half Glenn stepped up his game and delivered a far more realistic and enjoyable performance, just in the nick of time. As the star of the show it was unfortunate that he did not claim his spot much sooner, but better late than never!
Although the introduction was slightly disappointing, Jesus Christ Superstar is still an iconic must-see. This production, the actors and the ambiance commands a resounding 7 out of 10. TNT recommends it to all theatre novices; it is a wonderful introduction to the world of theatre and to the exceptional Palace Theatre.
TNT Real Talk Theatre Review
TNT Real Talk Theatre Review