Wednesday, 9 April 2014

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at May Hall, Trent College, Long Eaton.
by Long Eaton Operatic Society.

Sometimes shortened to JCS, well after tonight I can shorten it to a couple of other groups of three letters, OMG and WOW!

JCS is the directorial debut for Adam Guest at the Long Eaton Operatic Society, and why not go for one of the most difficult and biggest rock operas? A few sound issues in Act 1 but these were swiftly rectified for Act 2 but definitely didn't spoil what was an immensely difficult task Adam must have undertaken, given the large and enthusiastic cast.

You know it's the story of the last seven days of JC's life so let's cut to the nitty gritty, the actors. There were some excellent performances from Kathi Ludlow (Mary), who delivered good performances with feeling of "I Don't Know How To Love Him" and "Could We Start Again Please", the latter with Peter, another fine vocal performer in Phil Brooks.

I loved the light and shade with JC's apostles and followers in brightly coloured modern garb and the baddies clad in black suits, oozing authority. Pilate, played by Graham Buchanan, got to show off a very good set of vocal chords with his two songs, "Pilate's Dream", slow and morose, and "Trial by Pilate" spitting pure evilness as he counts every single lash on Jesus's body.

Comedy role of King Herod was played by Rob Byatt, a role that didn't call for a great vocal as the lyrics relied on the comedy element, and Rob managed to deliver the comedy element of the song.

Now, even though it's Jesus's name in the title, the musical is more about Judas, such a juicy role for any actor, and Judas's part went to a mighty fine actor in Sam Barson. Sam has the rare ability to sound just as good singing Gilbert & Sullivan as he does singing out and out rock tracks for JCS, and it's Judas who really gets the more upfront role. I've seen Tim Minchin play Judas but Sam manages to inject a real menace to the role and at times is like a circling shark on stage, and for me Sam steals the show.

But the Long Eaton Operatic Society have again played a blinder in casting Mitch Gamble, a gamble that reaped dividends in this show, as the main man, JC. Portrayed, not as a God, but as a human being with all the pressures and troubles that any human being could be heaped with when stuck on a pedestal, as Jesus Christ was when Rice and Lloyd-Webber penned this iconic musical. All musical lovers were waiting for Act 2 for "Gethsemane", the song that Jesus sings seconds before his betrayal in the Garden Of Gethsemane by Judas. It was a brilliant performance by Mitch, delivered with real passion, as was the final scene of Jesus on the cross. This scene particularly brings a lump to the throat and raises the hairs on your arms and neck as he asks for his mother and a drink of water, as would a child after a nightmare and looking for comfort from the one he feels safe with.

Excellent lighting, a live orchestra, great use of the stage and it's different levels, as well as some very good visuals on the video screen. An amazingly good cast, choreographer, producer and director provide a show not to be missed, and the standing ovation at the end of the show by a very appreciative audience backed all of this up.

On a smaller scale than the recent arena tour version but every bit as good.

You can see Jesus Christ Superstar at May Hall, Trent College in Long Eaton until this Saturday, 12 April 2014

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