Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Saturday, 15 June 2013
Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Spectacular, June 14, 2013 *****
Jesus Christ Superstar
Arena Spectacular, Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Tim Rice Rod Laver
Arena, Melbourne, June 14, 15, 16, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on
June 14 Stars: ***** Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Saturday June 15 and in print in Arts section on Sunday June 16. KH
Laurence Connor's inspired UK Arena production of
Jesus Christ Superstar catapults the story of Jesus into the 21st
century with the momentum and urgency of a youthful, political revolution.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ground-breaking, 1970s rock
opera now includes tweets, graffiti, live video, and an exuberant chorus of
dread-locked ferals as Jesus' followers.
Ben Forster's Jesus is an unsophisticated, intensely
human idealist who fights a losing battle amongst corrupt politicians,
religious leaders, manic cult followers, despairing youth and a ravenous media
Forster's versatile voice is thrilling and impassioned
singing the rock anthem, Gethsemane, but he is equally compelling singing ballads
with warmth and subtlety.
The final Crucifixion is remarkable and moving with
Forster stripped, beaten and bleeding, then hoisted high on a metal grid while
Judas leads a frenzied chorus celebrating Jesus’ death.
Tim Minchin’s voice and performance are impeccable and
his Judas is charismatic, sympathetic and strangely alluring, considering the
much-maligned Judas betrays Jesus to the Pharisees.
His rendition of Superstar is bold and fervent, and the
scene of Judas’s Death is the most poignant moment in the production.
Ex-Spice Girl, Melanie Chisholm (Mel C), is affecting
as the hapless Mary Magdalene singing I Don’t Know How to Love Him.
Jon Stevens is a seductive Pontius Pilate, and the exceptional
power of his gravelly, rock voice singing Trial Before Pilate exposes Pilate as
a weak, political animal easily swayed by public opinion.
Leon Craig (Replacing the injured Andrew O’Keefe) is
a riot playing King Herod as a grinning, glitzy TV host who whips the crowd
into a frenzy then declares Jesus a fraud after a TV poll.
Playing the manipulative Caiaphas and his obsequious
sidekick, Annas, Cavin Cornwell and Gerard Bentall sing Bloody Money with
On a stage design that includes imposing stone steps and
projections of government and derelict buildings, songs such as What’s The
Buzz, Hosanna, The Temple and Superstar assume contemporary significance and
have resonances of the 2009 London riots and other rebellions.
Lloyd Webber’s music is dynamic, vibrant and eclectic
in style and, with Time Rice’s cunning lyrics, the songs advance the narrative
and illuminate the characters as only great music theatre can do. Kudos to the
Connor’s production is cohesive and coherent, miraculously
translating Superstar into a dangerous, passionate world of social upheaval,
corruption, personal betrayal and potent rage.