Jesus Christ Superstar

6 Aug

I went to see the production of Jesus Christ Superstar that was put on by Jeannie Pratt’s “The Production Company” at the State Theatre in the Melbourne Arts Centre.

I made the mistake of reading a review of it in the Age newspaper before I went where the critic only gave it two and a half stars.  I should know by now that reviews are merely opinions and that the critic in question was not looking for the things I look for in a production of JCS.

The first complaint he had was that the voices of the leads playing Jesus and Judas weren’t strong enough for the roles.  My guess is that he was seated too far away to see that the entire cast was singing unmiked!  I don’t think my ears could have stood it if Rob Mills (Jesus) and Zoy Frangos (Judas) had been throat miked!  The only mic to appear on the stage is the prop one used by Judas in the title song.

The critic (I honestly can’t remember his name, sorry) also complained that the scene in the Temple where Jesus chases out the money lenders and vendors made no sense with the wild costuming.  It made a lot of sense, if you actually read the notes in the free programme provided where director Gale Edwards spoke about Jesus: “Everything he stands for, believed in and taught would be a confrontation to our capitalist system”.  I doubt it’s a coincidence that the costumes in the scene included hookers, Las Vegas style showgirls, gambling, and even Hollywood (as represented by Wonder Woman).  Less obvious was the personification of America, Uncle Sam, lurking on the scaffolding set watching the proceedings.

Paul Hughes was an excellent Caiaphas.  That part is a particular favourite of mine.  His voice is lucious and as ‘This Jesus Must Die’ and ‘Blood Money’ are two of my favourite songs, his glorious vocals made them a highlight.  The odd beard they put on him was a little off putting.  He looked alarmingly like Ming the Merciless.

I found this production very interesting.  The chemistry between Jesus and Judas was very different to other productions I have seen.  There seemed to be an element of homoeroticism involved.  Especially since the kiss of betrayal isn’t a quick peck on the cheek, but a tender kiss on the lips.  It actually added a deeper layer of pain and misery to the role of Judas.

A word about Zoy Frangos’ Judas.  Superb.  His is the first portrayal I have seen where, just before he suicides and is crying out that he’s been used, that I have realised that he is crying to God, not to Jesus!  It’s almost a duplication of Gesthemene, except that it ends in suicide rather than execution.

This production had the clearest portrayal of Jesus and Judas as the two sides of the same coin that I have ever seen.  Rob Mills and Zoy Frangos’ voices blended well together in their duets.  And you needed to be seated close to the stage to see that WTF look that passes between them when Simon Zealotes is handing out weapons.

A special mention of Trevor Ashley’s Herod.  His is the first Herod I have seen that has gone from ridicule to fear.  Towards the end of his song, Herod looks into Jesus’ face and sees something that makes him recoil in fear.  It makes the switch in the song from mockery to shrieking “Get him out of my palace’ make a lot more sense.

‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is only on until 13th August.  If you haven’t got a ticket, do yourself a favour and grab one, if there are any left.  It was a full house on Saturday.

I give the production 4 and a half stars on my JCS appreciation scale.

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