Ever since ITV lured me in to rushing home every night to watch and vote for who would be Jesus by putting the delectable Roger Wright up for the job (sorry you missed out, my friend!), I was hooked on going to see the show. Last night, my good friend Charlie and I headed out to the O2.
Despite the Jubilee line being full to bursting we still managed to bump to my lovely talented muscial theatre legend friend Amy (who co-incidentally I first met at another performance of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ back in the day in Leamington). Of all the tube carriages in all of London eh… !
Charlie was super excited about the show, she’d been singing the songs all day. She started wailing a few minutes into Act 2 but I managed to hold it together. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this show but I knew that an arena tour would be different. It certainly was a different performance and in many ways quite brilliant. There were just a few minor irritations that bugged me, though.
1. Nobody producing the show had obviously sat in the top seats (where we were) and worked out that everyone looked very teeny on stage (obvious) but also that the rigging and lights etc COMPLETELY blocked our view of the top of the big screen behind the stage so that when the cameras were on the stars, all we saw were bodies without heads performing to us. The man behind me was very grumpy about this and moaned almost constantly about it. To be fair, we had been sold tickets with no mention of ‘restricted view’ and these tickets weren’t cheap, so he had a point. A bit irritating.
2. I love this show, and I know that the main aim is to bring it back to a rock opera and in a big arena etc, but having seen it before I felt that something was lost in the production being so big. There had been so much hype before the show had even started. There’s an intimacy that is lost when the venue is so large and I didn’t connect emotionally with the show as much as I thought I would. (maybe that also wasn’t helped by the restricted view etc) Despite that, there were moments when they managed to draw me in and these moments (I’ll get to them in a minute) were truly outstanding.
I was dubious about new boy Ben Forster’s hair (from the YouTube promo) but on stage he looked very nice indeed and the look certainly suited him as Jesus. His performance was amazing, especially his rendition of Gethsemane… and that scream! The extended applause that followed was well-earned. He was definitely the best of the ‘Superstar’ boys for this part though (sorry again, Roger, but you know I’m still coming to your show as well!! 😉 )
Melanie C, as Mary Magdalene, proved that she really can sing. She was always, in my view, the ‘forgotten’ Spice Girl. However, in their recent outing at the Olympic Games closing ceremony I’d noticed we could hear her vocals more and I’m sure it’s all to do with preparing for this. Her rendition of ‘I don’t know how to love him’ was the first moment in the show to give me goosebumps. Beautiful.
Chris Moyles was good as Herod, but on and off too soon. Am I the only person in the UK to find him less attractive now he’s lost so much weight? It doesn’t look right.
Eat more, Moyles. You were more personable when you were cuddlier! Great performance though.
Then that leaves Tim Minchin. Given that he lives round the corner from me I’ve seen him a lot recently. I’m sure he’s been wearing some of those outfits around Waitrose… His performance as Judas was good, but I think that Ben and Mel C were slightly more believable. That said, his rendition of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ was excellent. He’s just a scary character, I think it’s the hair…
I’m always amazed at how Andrew Lloyd Webber managed to write this show and not be a Christian. I hope that when people see it they want to find out more about the real Jesus. There are so many great bits that Andrew managed to get in to the show but so many great bits that he just didn’t get. Ending with the death of Jesus just proves that he doesn’t get it. That’s just the beginning… There is SO MUCH more!
The one thing that stands out for me though, and for which I shall shake director Laurence Connor by the hand if/when I meet him one day, is the Crucifixion scene. That worked really well in the Arena setting. It was simple, effective and profoundly moving. So much that I would consider using the DVD extract of that in future talks . And although I said that I hate it that the show ends before the Resurrection, this was the best ‘ending’ I’ve seen in all the times I’ve seen the show. Well done.
I’ll stop now. If you are going to see it, enjoy. It’s a phenomenon. Just try to sit not too high up in the arena though! I pray that God would use this tour to get more people interested in finding the real Jesus and in reading the true story for themselves.