Wednesday, 7 September 2016

"Jesus Christ Superstar" by People's Theatre Company
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
I can sum my review up with just one sentence. The best non professional production I've seen. Not only that but it also rivals the Arena Tour production that featured Tim Minchin and Melanie Chisholm.
The show kicked off with that iconic opening rock guitar played by Richard Shaw and then the action exploded into a tension, open-mouthed production which highlighted some of the best local talent in Nottingham.
Who cares that the set was sparse, not I, because you don't need a set with this show. The set that was in place revealed a cross toward the end scene which looked just the way you'd expect a cross that was knocked together back in Jesus' day, nothing flashy but practical.
Jesus may have been nailed to the cross but that wasn't the only thing that was nailed. The singing, choreography, acting, the passion, timing, basically everything was nailed by everyone, even down to the sound and lighting by Tom Mowat and Richard Zamorski. Practically the perfect performance.
"JCS" was the first soundtrack I bought on vinyl when I was about 11 years old, remember the old Music For Pleasure record label, so this show has a special meaning for me as it must have actually influenced my love for musical theatre. I love every song and practically know the songs back to front. I've seen many performances of the show, so how do you make the show appear fresh? Well that was something that director Chris Teasdale(who also made an appearance on stage) and assistant director Luke Grainger achieved.
The musical arrangements were changed subtly by musical director David Hails, and there were certain bits which I hadn't noticed in other performances which made the whole show seem wonderfully revitalised. The attitude in the ensemble pieces were actually quite alarming, making you feel quite uneasy with the mob scenes, especially with the calls to crucify Jesus; there were real looks of anger and a thirst for blood coming from the stage. Really quite unnerving. 
Patrick McChrystal (Jesus) absolutely nailed the role. this being his first lead role must've added extra pressure but, if that was the case, it didn't show. The passion that oozed from his performance went from sublime to screaming anger. Paddy gave every thing he had in his performance which also came through his singing as well as his acting. Very controlled performance and his version of "Gethsemane" was the best I've heard outside the film version and Ian Gillan's version. I got the chills with this song, and Paddy's vocals, and you really felt for the broken, betrayed Jesus. 
PTC are blessed in this production with some incredible singers and Sam Barson bettered his previous version of Judas last year in Long Eaton in this production. Sam has an amazing rock voice, no surprise that he also sings in a local rock band called "Famous For Nothing", I know ironic isn't it? Sam looks the rock star with his guyliner and shadowy image, not as prowling and menacing as in his previous version but altogether a faultless and exciting performance. Again you really feel for Judas as he wrestles with his guilt at betraying Jesus; another big nod to the acting ability of Mr Barson.

Vivienne Tay was just superb as Mary, so much more charismatic than the touring theatre production of Mary, and what a gorgeous voice. her simple version of "I Don't Know How To Love Him" was truly hypnotic, as was her "Can We Start Again Please" duet with Peter, played by Connah Porter, who is another actor you need to watch out for who also possesses a really good musical theatre voice. 

I've seen Jason Wrightam in several roles over the years but, as far as I can remember, not in a singing role such as Pilate. Once more a very passionate and angry performance. You were drawn to him all the time that he was on stage as he spat evil at Jesus in his final hours.
I keep coming back to the very strong vocals in this show and Meng Khaw as Caiaphas exercised his wonderful deep tones in this role.
Luke Grainger lasciviously played Annas, What I noticed in this role was the absolute glee at seeing the infliction of pain on Jesus, quite frightening in fact, but a testament to Luke's acting. I knew Luke had a brilliant singing voice and again this was shown tonight. Powerful and controlled,acting and vocal wise.
Laura Ellis was quite unrecognisable as disciple Simon, and it wasn't until I looked at the programme that I realised it was her.
King Herod is the role that adds the comedy to the musical and again, a completely different spin given on this character. Choosing John Gill to play this role was a touch of genius and I loved the camp, but not too over the top camp, version of "Herod's Song". I'm now querying what I class as "too over the top". Maybe John has pushed the bar up for me, but I loved that costume, and only Herod could carry it off. You have to go and see this take on the King!
A very tight ensemble, vocal and choreography wise, which I was incredibly impressed by. You can see that Jenny Scott has really pushed everyone to get the wonderful choreographed results on show which wouldn't be out of place on a professional stage.
I must also mention the tight stage management by Amy Rogers-Gee keeping the smooth flow on and off stage. You should also take note of the make up by Sophie Mann and Annabel Moy because they made Patrick's bruises and welts look excruciatingly painful and tender, as well as Sam's stark white face and black eyeliner really stand out.
The costumes were every day garb which meant that the action could be shown as modern, again keeping that fresh appeal.
The band were incredible and very sympathetic to the vocalists, not once did they drown the singers, and for a rock opera, that is something that i feared, but the band, Tom Watkins and Morven Harrison (keyboards),Richard Shaw (guitar), Tom Preston (bass) and Dave Shipley (drums) created a comfortable and competent backing. 
Look, basically this is the only theatre show you need to see this week in Nottingham. It shoves that bar even further up for the Peoples Theatre Company as they get ever better with each production they do. can i also say that it was most satisfying to see the level of support for the theatre with the almost full theatre. After all you're seeing the West End stars of tomorrow here! 
"Jesus Christ Superstar" is being performed by The People's Theatre Company at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 11 September 2016, so get down and find out what the "Buzz" is all about if I didn't make it plain enough! 

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