Jesus Christ Superstar 2012 Arena Tour – A Review

Jesus Christ Superstar 2012 Arena Tour – The Good, The Bad and the What the Hell?
I received comp tickets to see the brand new arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. I was very happy to get these as I had followed the ITV reality show when they were looking for Jesus. I was more or less happy with their choice of Ben “Pob” Forster and looked forward to hearing him sing.

The O2 is an odd place. Inside it feels like an aircraft hangar. It seems that there are lots of nice places to eat there but so much unused open spaces. This was really apparent on a cold and wet Sunday evening.

Upon entering the arena itself, I was pleasantly surprised at the seats that we had. We were basically sitting directly in front of the stage, up in the raked area. Looking around, there were quite a few empty seats, which doesn’t really bode well for the beginning of a tour that was heavily publicized on a television programme.

The Good
The show has been given a 21st century contemporary update so that Jesus and his followers are like those Occupy London campaigners that were picketing around St Paul’s. They had their tents and a fireplace on stage, with wonderful giant projects of buildings in the background.
I loved the choice of using tweets and text messages to convey the support of the people for Jesus and his campaign. The director also chose to use a combination of static cameras and a roving camera crew on stage to capture and simultaneously project the images so that the audience who were not in the first few rows would also get to see the expressions on the actor’s faces.

The Jesus Christ Superstar songbook is a fantastic score and the band handled the music brilliantly. Theywere amazing. The band were on the stage intertwined behind scaffolding of the ultra modern set.

There were quite a few stand out performances for me, namely the actors in the supporting cast. This included Alexander Hanson, who played a superb Pilate – this man knows how to act his way through a song. Michael Pickering as Peter sang the hell out of his songs. So clean, clear and funky. Loved it.

Chris Moyles came out and did his show stopping song as King Herod. He was supposed to be a TV presenter of a reality type show similar to the X Factor. He was good but because his characterisation seemed to draw on the spirit of Graham Norton, it would have been perfect if Graham Norton had actually played the part. Actually John Barrowman would have been sublime and would have sashayed and high kicked the bejesus out of the role. I know he is probably too big for this part, but he would have been fabulous.

The Bad

It was too loud. I know that the producers were aiming for a rock concert feel but the amplification was deafening and at some points, quite painful and distracted from the the songs.

Some of the acting was not very good. This was particularly highlighted by the main stars Tim Minchin and Ben Forster, playing Judas and Jesus respectively. For some reason, they both seemed to mumble and bumble around the stage. It just felt like they were acting by numbers. i.e. get to the end of a phrase, move upstage, get to the end of the next phrase, move back downstage. Very odd.

The choreography was a little bit ho hum. It looked as if the producers had decided that the singing was more important, which meant that they either ended up with an ensemble of non-dancing brilliant singers or their dancers couldn’t handle any difficult dance sequences while trying to hold on to harmonies etc.

What the Hell?

The songs that most people look forward to are Gethsemane and Judas’ last number, Jesus Christ Superstar. Usually you do not have to worry about whether the singer is going to hit those high notes and you can get completely lost in the moving words and images that the first song conjures up.  Unfortunately you could see the actor working hard as he slid up the scale and instead of getting to enjoy emotions, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, willing him to hit the note.  He got there in the end, (well, it was slightly off) but he worked hard so I’ll forgive him.

However I can not forgive Mr Minchin for literally ripping the soul out of what should have been a funk inducing, rebel rousing, toe tapping song of epic gospel proportions.  He looked uncomfortable, the dancers were wearing the same angel wings as the staff at the O2 and Tim seemed to have issues with the tambourine he was, it seemed, forced to play. The man did not seem to have any soul.

Jesus and His Wig

The hair has to be mentioned. Judas and Mary Mag went down the route of urban warrior and both were styled with dreadlocks.  However, Jesus, sweet Jesus, what the hell was on your head?  It looked like it was a wig that had been borrowed from Marius in Les Mis.  Talk about an out of place bouffant! Sack the stylist!

Summing Up Jesus Christ Super – The Tour

In closing, I did check out other reviews on this show because I wanted to know if I was being harsh and if I was missing something.  Everyone seemed to love Mr Minchin’s performance, so maybe he was a little under the weather when I watched him.

Is it worth Seeing?

It is always a wonderful experience to hear live music and to watch brilliantly acted musical theatre.  I am happy that I got the opportunity to see this show but I think it has a few kinks to work out. The older people who remember the story in its original guise may be disappointed because it is really modern and loud.

Younger people may enjoy the urban street feel that they were going for. For me, something was definitely lacking.  Lets hope it gets sorted before the end of the run.

Here are links to other reviews online, if you want to find out what others thought of the show:

The Stage Newspaper Review

The Guardian Newspaper Review

The Independent Newspaper Review

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