‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is a powerhouse rock opera full of energy and colour that features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. The show, which is completely sung through in true Lloyd Webber fashion, follows Jesus Christ’s last week of life before his crucifixion. It delves into the previously unexplored relationship between Jesus and Judas Iscariot, the tragic antihero who betrays Jesus’s trust.
Queensland Musical Theatre’s production of this seminal show delivered raw talent in an entertaining yet unpolished manner. There were some unparalleled moments of greatness, however I was left wanting more precision from this rendition of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’.
Despite this, Chris Simpson shone in the role of Judas Iscariot. He tackled Lloyd Webber’s tricky score mostly with ease, and although he experienced issues in his upper register, these could be attributed to the difficulty of the score and could easily be ironed out with time. The way he managed to transition from clear, high vocals to growly rock tones was a noteworthy feat.
Jesus, portrayed by Archie Reyes, excelled in the more understated numbers. His rendition of ‘Gesthemane (I Only Want to Say)’ was excellent. However, both leads clearly struggled with the high placement of the score and so, broke or bordered on sounding strained too frequently not to notice.
Emma Gow, as Mary Magdalene, poured emotion into every song, with ‘I Don’t Know How to Love Him’ emerging as a true standout number despite a few initial pitch difficulties. She improved remarkably throughout the duration of the show as she gained confidence in the role. An honourable mention must also be given to Steve Elbourn in the role of Simon Zealotes for his outstanding vocals. My only critique of Steve is that I wished I could have heard more from him.
One particularly disappointing aspect of what is a famously vocal-heavy production was the technical issues that arose throughout the show. A number of micing errors occurred, distracting from the storytelling and vocals present on stage. This caused major issues with continuity as the plot suffered interruptions when the microphones cut out or were not equalised properly. Hopefully this issue will be addressed for the remaining performances.
The ensemble cast, although seemingly enthusiastic, also left a lot to be desired. Their timing, both in terms of the choreography and score, begged improvement. This lack of cohesion, however, was thankfully compensated for by the quality of their vocals, especially the few alto voices that could be heard prominently in the second act.
The band, and musical direction by Andrew Wadley, were key to maintaining the energy of the show and added well-needed colour to moments without vocals. The electric guitar solo that preceded Judas’s re-entry in the second act was definitely a memorable musical moment.
Both the set and costumes were simple yet effective. Although nothing particularly innovative was on display here, the costumes assisted in grounding the show in a specific time period whilst maintaining the integrity of the show with Jesus’s traditional dress. The set was conducive to Jess Page’s free yet detailed choreography, which at only 18 years old, deserves to be commended.
‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is a notoriously difficult musical to pull off, and so, I applaud Queensland Musical Theatre and everyone involved for delivering a decidedly entertaining show. Although technical difficulties and a lack of refinement detracted from the development of the show, in all this was an energetic and passionate production that showcased the vocals of its main cast.
Queensland Musical Theatre’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ runs until the 12th of June. Purchase tickets from QTIX or Ticketek.
Written by Charlotte Borland