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REVIEW | Jesus Christ Superstar, UK Tour - Sheffield Lyceum

AD | Tickets were gifted in exchange for honest

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s religious rock musical is back on stage in this pleasing new reimagined production from its two sell-out runs at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre, back in 2016/17. Jesus Christ Superstar follows the life of Jesus Christ and the days leading up to his crucifixion, being told to the audience in the point of view of his betrayer Judas! 

Jesus Christ Superstar is one of Lloyd Webber's and Tim Rice’s most iconic and famous collaborations. This sung-through musical with music and lyrics by the pair, direction by Timothy Sheader and choreography by Drew McOnie, has some exciting new changes and to me are very interesting, which helps bring a refreshing perspective and revives this musical for the next generation of theatre goers. Out of various different productions that I’ve seen of this show, on stage or one of the many filmed versions of the piece, this Jesus Christ Superstar probably is the one that I felt more towards the action the most. 

Jesus Christ Superstar the Musical runs for 1 hour and 50 minutes including an interval. Like always, my reviews are 100% honest and I will always justify my ratings, thoughts and feelings, always giving constructive feedback and my opinions are my own. 

Written by famous theatre lyricist and composer Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber the pair collide their musical talents and Lloyd Webber creates a distinct electronic-rock musical sound that is the framework for the capturing lyrics by Rice. Both Lloyd Webber and Rice write heavy music and lyrics from start to finish, with a few slower gentle songs from time to time. The heavy rock numbers to the sweet slower numbers are on point, with both considering the characters and their part in the story. The musicality is strong and distinct, that it makes sense that back when the show was originally written that it helped the ways of the genre of musical theatre, to me Lloyd Webber's score is dramatic and gripping that makes it greatly paired with lyrics written by Rice that are impactful and emotive. The pair are well versed in their craft of writing theatre and Jesus Christ Superstar shows their talents remarkably well. I know some people will think Jesus singing in a rock genre is not a good idea but Lloyd Webber and Rice show that it can be done, and through the sound and lyrics the story that shines. The musical legends have written one heavenly masterpiece. 

Directed by Timothy Sheader, Sheader brings out so many different symbolic elements in this production. This modern reimagining adds handheld microphones and microphone stands and other modern features such as costuming and choreography, while modernising the show still try’s to stick to its original roots while also adding new modern features. Sheader's directional approach is different from what I’ve seen from other productions of the show. 

Sheader's approach is very clear, precise and well executed, the tension between Mary (played by Hannah Richardson) and Judas (played by Shem Omari James) is shown really well. You can see the close tension between both, but not only that you can sense Judas’ protection of not only Jesus but himself. Sheader directs the character of Judas, to me, as he’s segregated and excluded as a disciple, Sheader’s direction doesn’t have the same narrator direction as you would expect, it feels very natural. Sheader’s take on showing one of Judas’ storylines was very effective and gave a slight release from the heaviness but still driving the dramatics. Something I liked about this production is the usage of the guitars for various characters. I feel this added an extra bit of vulnerability to the character of Jesus (Played by Ian Mclntosh) especially when singing ‘Gethsemane’, by adding the instrument element to the piece Jesus is allowed to show off more emotion. Another thing I liked is that Sheader’s direction presented the relationship between characters Jesus and Judas at the very end of the show, which was done really well and I feel this created a very stirring moment which felt impactful to the characters relationship as whole. With another notable element of having glitter symbolising the blood during the crucifixion, which eased the tension ever so slightly without losing the powerful effect and cast members held up props of the crown of thorns and this really showed the foreshadowing of the show. But it has a few things that unfortunately lets the show slightly down, BUT only slightly, one thing was, due to the change in space between theatre to theatre the whole action felt cramped and crowded, but this doesn’t stop Sheader’s craft showing Superstar in a whole new light with the direction being truly incredible and noteworthy. 

The cast all came together beautifully, bringing some great performances, especially when before the curtain came up there were a few technical issues that seemed from the audience to not phase them. But I wanted to highlight a few of the cast members.

Ian Mclntosh, plays the title role of Jesus Christ, Mclntosh is truly wonderful, with performing the mammoth high notes resulting in a brilliantly impressive performance. Mclntosh looks at ease on stage and feels very comfortable in the role of Jesus. Mclntosh and Omari James both play off each other really well together on stage, you can sense a slow burning climax between both throughout the whole show. Mclntosh brilliantly delivers the character of Jesus and performs a delightful performance overall.

Hannah Richardson, plays the role of Mary Magdalene, Richardson’s vocals and stage presence is something that is notable throughout. Richardson takes great care in developing a lovingly sweet Mary who clearly shows the caring nature for Jesus, we see this beautifully throughout, and shows the fear and worries for Jesus and the days leading up to his crucifixion in the beautiful Ballad ‘I don’t know how to love him’. Richardson’s performance is a truly special one. 

Shem Omari James, plays Jesus’ Betrayer Judas, as the show is told through Judas’ perspective. Omari James does an excellent job at doing this tremendously well. Omari James creates a commanding presence at each given moment, pulling us in to hear the story. Omari James gives an admirable performance across the board, you could see the dynamic emotional changes in the character that are all delivered through some incredible vocals. Shem Omari James is Brilliant!

A notable mention that I didn’t want to miss out, is Eloise Davis who played Mob Leader. Davis’ movements were outstanding and executed in what I would describe as poetic contemporary choreography so well, by Drew McOnie, Davis was very committed and commanding on stage. 

Throughout this production we are given some fantastic lighting by Lee Curran who greatly  creates atmosphere, mood and tone throughout, with also Tom Scutt's set design which you can see how it suited the Regent’s Park stage, feeling very epic and significant to the eye. 

This new reimagined Jesus Christ Superstar is a gutsy and exciting take on the classic rock musical with many new features that bring out some of this production's best moments and also to me brings a deeper look at the characters. The writing duo's much loved musical is fresher than ever before and has a great team behind it. Jesus Christ Superstar is a classic that has many fans, some may love this production some not, but In reality this production is a good example of reviving and letting new life into a classic musical. A

diviningly-electrifying new reimagining of a classic musical. 


Jesus Christ Superstar plays at the Sheffield Lyceum until 29 June before continuing on a UK tour.

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