Tag Archives: Jesus Christ Superstar

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.

Jesus Christ Superstar

17 Nov

When the UK arena spectacular version of Jesus Christ Superstar came down to Australia earlier this year, I was devastated as I was unable to go.  For a mad, crazy, Jesus Christ Superstar fan, this was a tragedy of epic proportions.

To put it in perspective, I saw the 1994 Australian production something like six times, and have lost count of the number of different cast recording CDs that I own.

Then last weekend, to my delight, I found the UK Arena spectacular on dvd at a local supermarket.  Didn’t get a chance to watch that weekend, but this Saturday past I settled down to watch and enjoy.  I was totally blown away by the production.

Until I watched the dvd, I would have said that Darryl Lovegrove, the star of the 1993 New Zealand, and 1994 Australian productions, was the best Jesus I had seen.  Ben Forster blew him out of the water.  His performance of “Gesthemene” is the most powerful and poignant I have heard.

Tim Minchin as Judas was also a rare treat.  Too often Judas and Jesus don’t sync well together and the chemistry that should be there just isn’t.  The chemistry between Forster and Minchin was truly delicious.  It showed most clearly during the song “The Last Supper”.  Brilliant performances from both men.

Mel C was great as Mary Magdalene as well.  The inner turmoil of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” was exquisite, as was the duet with Peter of “Can We Start Again, Please?”  One of my favourite songs from the opera, but one so often mishandled by inadequate casting of the minor role of Peter.

Alex Hanson’s Pontius Pilate was delicious.  Sharp, cynical, and helplessly caught in the web of fate, Alex Hanson gave this character so much life.  Would have to say he’s my second favourite Pilate.  George Henare still reigns supreme in my mind, with his swirling purple coat and velveteen voice.

I also need to make comment of Pete Gallagher as Caiaphas.  As a smartly suited embodiment of evil he was delectable.  “Jesus Must Die” is another of my favourite songs and he did it justice magnificently.

I really liked the staging of the show.  Rome as a massive multi-national corporation headed by Caesar.  Caiaphas as the head of the Israel branch.  Pilate as a corporate lawyer.  With Jesus and the Twelve as a protest movement.  It worked fantastically well.  The use of CCTV like footage, pseudo news footage, and multimedia messages on a large screen at the back, was simply inspired.

The did do one thing that is still puzzling me.  How the hell did Judas manage to hang himself onstage??? 

I can see me watching this dvd many, many times.  The production is damn near perfect.

 

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