Musical: Jesus Christ Superstar
Venue: Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York
Review by: Julia Pattison
Presented by York Musical Theatre Company, Jesus Christ Superstar followed the last seven days in the life of Jesus Christ, beginning with the preparations for his arrival in Jerusalem and ending with his crucifixion.
This groundbreaking masterpiece by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice was directed by Paul Laidlaw, with John Atkin taking on the role of musical director.
The simple scaffolding set design contrasted well with the loud 70s costumes, and the general retro Buzz, coming into its own in the final scene as Christ’s broken body hung from the cross; a stark, sombre sight.
York University Theatre Graduate, John Whitney was outstanding in the role of Jesus, you really felt the pressure he was under, particularly when he was overwhelmed by people begging to be healed by him, and felt his pain as he almost buckled under the weight doing his Father’s Will; I Only Want To Say (Gethsemane) was a heart wrenching solo, sung sublimely by John with such feeling and passion it brought tears to the eyes.
The casting had obviously been carefully considered; Chris Mooney made Judas less of a villain, and more of a victim of the Pharisees and Sadducees manipulating him like a puppet.
He too, like John, had a wonderfully powerful voice which he clearly demonstrated throughout the show.
Marlena Kellie brought out the warm compassion of Mary Magdalene, giving a moving rendition of “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” and “Could We Start Again Please” showing an understanding of Jesus that even his own disciples didn’t have.
Martin Harvey managed Caiaphas’s low singing notes with ease, with his portrayal of his character contrasting well with Matthew Clare’s menacing, smirking and often high pitched singing Annas, with Malcolm Poole and Simon Trow proving to be prowling priests, waiting to pounce.
Peter Wookie commanded the space as Pilate, and John Haigh provided light relief as Herod with his fabulous dancing girls, emphasising Jesus’s fate with its frivolity.
I can’t praise this production enough, from the energetic cast, the excellent live band, and assured singing from soloists, to the atmospheric lighting (Simon Spencer) you were left buzzing at the sheer energy and professionalism of this company.