Tuesday, July 16

Jesus Christ Superstar – The Lowry

The musical phenomenon that is ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ graces the stage at The Lowry this week. With well-known lyrics by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber this version was initially performed at London’s Regent’s Park open air theatre and received an Olivier for best reimagined production in 2017.

Directed by Alli Coyne, the story retells the final days of the life of Jesus up to his crucifixion. It is a revamped modern version and, in many ways, feels darker and ‘edgier’ than previous productions. It is perhaps the version that feels more ‘rock opera’ when compared to other productions and this adds to its success. From the opening scene of a guitar solo- there is a  an intention that the audience are watching a rock concert depicting the final days of Jesus Christ to his crucifixion.

Ian McIntosh plays the part of Jesus Christ. With many accolades to his name McIntosh was a good choice for such a part. Appearing to intentionally not want to be significant in the opening scenes and trying to gently influence the crowds, his part became stronger and more desperate as the story continued to the days before the crucifixion. With strong haunting vocals at times and an eerie falsetto that created a deafening silence in the audience, McIntosh was a joy to watch.

Shem Omari James performed as Judas Iscariot and was outstanding. Sensational, rich vocals, he ensured that this production was the rock opera it was intended to be. He portrayed a very strong presence on stage at all times. The scene when he was tempted and offered coins in his betrayal of Jesus was well executed and was demonstrated through his hands being ‘tarnished’ and covered in silver. Powerful imagery such as this added quality to the production.

Hannah Richardson performed the part of  Mary and  highlighted the continuity in Jesus’ life and her presence did not falter in this regard. Powerful vocals, Richardson knew when to pull back and the classic ‘I don’t know how to love him’, highlighted a richness and strength in vocals that was essential for her part as Mary Magdalene. 

It would be remiss not to mention Jad Habchi (Caiaphas) and Stephen Lewis-Johnston (Annas) who were outstanding in their parts, adding a layer of camp in many ways to the production along with interesting ways to perform and act with a microphone. Timo Tazber, draped in a gold cloak as Herod did not let the show down in the classic camp role that seems to be a given now in this role.

Musical Supervisor Tom Deering and all the musicians who performed on the stage must be applauded for a faultless performance that complemented the well-known score to a high quality. Guitar riffs a plenty, the music was central to the entire ambience on stage and succeeded on every level. At the heart of this musical is a score embedded in rock.  ‘Gethsemane’, ‘What’s the fuss’ and ‘Everything’s alright’ stood out on the night.

The ensemble were extremely effective as a visual on stage, moving together, emphasising the ‘mob’ type mentality perhaps. However, the uniformity to the choreography was at times hard to watch as the movements were very similar from the ensemble throughout the entirety of the show. Muted beiges, cream and grey colours in their costumes worked well as they moved ‘as one’ which was an interesting and effective contrast against a heavy industrial looking set.

A favourite scene as a visual was the Last Supper. With the positioning of the apostles at the table, all on one side of the table and the colours of the costume, it was as if the audience were observing a portrait similar to Leonardo De Vincis ‘Last Supper’ and was undoubtedly an unforgettable image on stage.

This latest version of Jesus Christ Superstar is certainly a success and the sense of being at a rock concert with the superstar being Jesus is well executed. It maintains the mix of intensity and despair but also maintains emotional content and the essential ‘sense of camp’ which ensures that it does not take itself too seriously. This seems to be the correct mix for a successful performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.

It is on all week at The Lowry, finishing on Saturday 25th May. Tickets available from www.thelowry.com  

Reviewer: Angela Kelly

Reviewed: 21st May 2024

North West End UK Rating: 4