Jesus Christ Superstar At The O2 – A Show 2000 Years In The Making
September 29, 2012
By: Rosie Hill
When Andrew Lloyd-Webber wrote Jesus Christ Superstar he always imagined it playing in a packed arena as a rock opera, and 42 years after the original release his vision has finally been realised in spectacular style.
The 2012 re-vamp of what is arguably Lloyd-Webber and writing partner Tim Rice’s best work is a conceptual masterpiece. Directed by Laurence Connor, the oldest story in the world is thrust into the modern world giving us a taste of what Jesus Christ would be like if he’d been born now. He would of course be using social networking to spread the Gospel and hanging out the front of St Paul’s Cathedral with the protestors with his dreadlocked disciples.
Jesus Christ Superstar centres on the last few days of Jesus’ life, and his relationship with Judas Iscariot; the disciple who ends up handing him over to the authorities. Judas as a character has had, understandably, a pretty rough deal throughout history but Lloyd-Webber’s Judas evokes an unexpected empathy in the audience. This is as much down to the superb song writing as the equally superb portrayal by Tim Minchin.
The Australian is known for his cleverly written, comedic songs but here his voice is the star. Judas is an musically complex role, but seemed no trouble for the talented Minchin. He effortlessly captured the rage, rebellion and eventual remorse of Judas, and the suicide scene was the most moving of the whole show. He is the true superstar of the production.
Ben Forster, who was chosen by the public through ITV’s Superstar show as the Messiah, holds his own in the title role. Forster combined rugged good looks with incredible vocal talent, and seemed to be a huge hit with the female fans, walking on for the first number to a fanfare of wolfwhistles. Looking like a seasoned professional, he held the audience in the palm of his hand for the emotionally charged Gethsemane – the song where Jesus finally accepts his fate.
Peter Gallagher and Alexander Hanson star as Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate respectively, and both revel in the bad guy roles, while Mel C plays a rather understated Mary Magdalene. I am not a fan of Chris Moyles, so when I heard he was playing King Herod I was a little apprehensive. But I was pleasantly surprised. His arrogance and smarmy wit are put to good use as the ex-Radio 1 DJ stars as chat show host Herod dressed in a fabulous crushed red velvet suit.
Set against a backdrop of protests and riots, the show makes use of a giant background screen showing dramatic imagery, close ups of the singers and social networking feeds – #The12 is a personal favourite of mine. The production embraces ideas of power and fame, and exposes the flawed, human side of Jesus Christ. As the show tells, ‘He’s just a man’.
The production is loud, brash and harrowing, encompassing the drama and noise of a rock concert, beautiful lyrics and the raw emotion we expect from the crucifixion. Lloyd-Webber’s appearance during the bows earned a huge round of applause as he personally thanked his cast and team for helping to finally achieve his vision. And I must now thank you Andrew; for without you we would not have the pleasure of watching such a masterpiece.