|image source: buzzmag.co.uk|
This modern retelling of the Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece was a visually and musically spectacular…in the main. The opening scene including police with riot shields forcing back protesters sets the tone for the show. The latest reincarnation is set against the back drop of current political, financial and humanitarian crisis. The show references the Occupy movement, the GFC, European austerity and riots, and African famine. I wonder if Lord Webber ever envisaged any staging Superstar would ever include pole dancers and go-go boys?
The set is a large staircase and even larger video screen. The screen is by and large used masterfully to extend the stage or compliment the on stage performances. The flogging scene is a perfect case in point (without any spoilers), the screen adds a powerful representation of the pain and gore.
There were occasional scenes when the video screen over powered or detracted from the on stage performances. In the nightclub scene the live performance was rendered almost redundant.
This is an arena performance, this means the audience are a long way from the stage. In such a dramatic story the facial expressions of the cast is critical to the story telling, in many cases this could only be shown on the big screen. For me it did leave me pondering why I was charged $95 to see a film. Having said that there were times when the onstage camera worked created visual effects and angles that added to the drama - the scene where Judas was paid to betray Jesus for example.
Talking about the size of the production. I have to say that the first half of the show the ensemble pieces felt more like a high school rock’n’roll eisteddfod piece. The cast just seemed lost on stage and their dancing seemed to be trying too hard to be edgy and tough. Glee is not tough no matter how many skateboards of hip-hop styled back spins there are. After intermission this all changed when the ensemble formed into a variety of mobs. They were much more together and much more powerful.
|image source: perthnow.com.au|
Talking of eisteddfods, Mel C as Mary. Her singing was pitch perfect and lovely. And that was the problem. It was lovely. Mary is a character full of love, passion and devotion. Mel C sang like a 15 year old who has never felt any of these emotions. If I was a reality TV judge I would not have turned my seat around. There was not depth or soul. My comment would have been “I just did not believe the words you were singing.”
The other lead characters, wow. Tim Minchin…Oh. My. God! Ironic for a famed atheist playing the role of Judas, but the man can sing and act. Is it not enough that he is one of the world’s biggest musical comedians and a composer of a Tony Award nominated Olivier Award winning musical?
|image source: thestage.co.uk|
Ben Forster as Jesus became more and more powerful as the story unfolded both vocally and acting. Forster’s portrayal in the arrest trial and crucifixion scenes is mesmerising. I have to say that a falsetto squeal does not an anguished heart wrenching scream make. Please take you cue from Mr Minchin’s reprise of “Don’t Know How To Love Him”. That is how to hit a high not with power and grit.
Leon Craig as stand-in for the role of Herod stole the show with a camp reality television/game-show host cameo.