Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Jesus Christ Superstar, July 29, 2017 ***1/2


Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice
The Production Company in association with The Really Useful Group
At State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Aug 13, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert in July 29, 2017
 Review also published in Herald Sun art online on Mon July 31, 2017, and later in print. KH
Michael Cormick, Rob Mills

In 1971, Jesus Christ Superstar broke all the rules and outraged plenty of people when it turned the last days of Jesus into a rock opera and portrayed the Messiah hooking up with Mary Magdalene.

With a score by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, this ground-breaking musical is now an old standard and director, Gale Edwards, must make it connect with a modern audience.

With its dynamic, eclectic music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s ingenious lyrics that advance the narrative and illuminate characters, this ground-breaking musical is now an old standard and director, Gale Edwards, must make it connect with a new audience.

Although Edwards’ production cannot compete with Laurence Connor's inspired UK Arena production that catapulted Jesus’ story into the 21st century, hers is a contemporary and, in the final scenes, gritty and gruesome vision of the last days of Jesus, the celebrity-social-warrior who was ‘just a man’.

Superstar addresses issues including love, loyalty, ethics, betrayal, leadership, politics and self-sacrifice, and Rob Mills portrays Jesus in a loving relationship with Mary Magdalene (Alinta Chidzey), in a fraught, fraying friendship with Judas (Zoy Frangos) and in conflict with Jewish leaders and Roman occupiers.
 Alinta Chidzey, Rob Mills
Mills’ Jesus is a vulnerable, naive idealist out of his depth battling politicians, high priests, a ravenous media and his own adoring followers.

After the lower-key ballads of the first act and some vocal issues, particularly with his falsetto, Mills delivers the impassioned rock anthem, Gethsemane, and his final, moving scenes of Jesus’ bloody scourging and crucifixion are tragic, particularly in contrast to the stirring anthem, Superstar.

As Judas, the purist and realist who warns Jesus that his actions are dangerous, Zoy Frangos has a powerful but unpredictable voice that captures Judas’ rage and frustration, but his Judas needs greater depth and nuance to balance his ferocity.

Chidzey’s warm voice and intimate style make Magdalene a sensual presence and her rendition of I Don’t Know How to Love Him is affecting.

The scaffolding design (Dan Potra) creates an industrial environment with multiple performance levels that might be used more effectively.

A fine supporting cast includes Michael Cormick as the political animal, Pilate, Trevor Ashley as the trashy cabaret version of Herod, and Andrew Cook with his rich voice as Peter, and, accompanied by music played by tight onstage band, the talented ensemble delivers What’s The Buzz, Hosanna and Superstar with enthusiasm.

The music of Superstar still soars while the social and personal issues are still relevant for audiences 40 years later.

By Kate Herbert
Zoy Frangos, Rob Mills

Rob Mills
Zoy Frangos
Alinta Chidzey
Trevor Ashley
Michael Cormick
Andrew Cook
Mike Snell

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