Jesus Christ Superstar Review

Jesus Christ Superstar is Auckland Theatre Company’s chosen 2014 big production for the festive season.

The 1970’s rock opera certainly is an eye opener, and has caused controversy in the past, so how does sit in 2014.

It’s a more challenging piece than at first glance, obviously most will know the story doesn’t end well , and there’s a good bit of torture running up to said ending. This however, is what most operas feature: a tormented soul, often wronged and betrayed, and usually culminating to a horrible demise.

So it seems that this is the perfect story for this kind of production, which would be why this is the most famous rock opera ever. With the wonderful music by Lord Lloyd-Webber and lyrics by Sir Tim Rice, the musical arrangement had a fun modern twist from musical director Leon Radojkovic.

The ATC production, directed by Oliver Driver, is performed in the round in Rangatira in Q Theatre. This immersive experience was a little overbearing on a Tuesday night but we settled in, and don’t worry there is only one bit of audience participation. You’re up close and personal with the actors, which makes it all the more captivating. The actors fully use the sprawling set of scaffolding, so no matter where your seats are you’re bound to feel part of the action.

The story is loosely based on the Gospel’s account of the last week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, closing with his Crucifixion.

The sound is spot on, with everything clearly unashamedly loud, and as rock n roll as can be.

A versatile set allowed for some swift scene changes. Clever use of props and effects make for some extra dramatic and somewhat confronting scenes, which would’ve looked equally impressive up in the gods as they did only feet away.

Ultimately though this show does come down to the voices. The cast here is fantastic! The voices are phenomenal with special mentions going out to Mary Magdalene played by Julia Deans, Judas Iscariot played by Laughton Kora, Andrew Granger as Pontius Pilate, and as Kristian Lavercombe as the main man Jesus Christ.

Kristian Lavercombe as Jesus Christ
Kristian Lavercombe as Jesus Christ – Photography by Michael Smith

And Christ was he good. His solo Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) had audience members in tears, and I would see the show again just for that one performance!!!

The King Herod ‘Goldmember style’ tribute felt a little odd, though funny, at the paramount part of the show. However, a great performance by Madeleine Sami that was obviously made to make us both laugh, and feel uncomfortable in equal measure.

As always ATC pull it out the bag producing some in your face theatre that, as with last year’s Chicago, will not be to everyone’s taste.

Clever and inventive staging, coupled with extraordinary singing performances, makes this one for the Christmas diaries

The Kensington Swan season of Jesus Christ Superstar is on at Q Theatre until 12 December.

Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar