Jesus Christ Superstar

“No shortage of superstars in this biblical spectacle”.

Regents Park Theatre’s newly reimagined and reinvigorated production of Andrew Llyod Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar made its official touring debut at the Palace Theatre in Manchester tonight. Based upon what is perhaps the most universally famous story ever told, the show guides us through a tale of love, betrayal, and superstardom. Jesus is at the height of popularity, much to the dismay of those in power. Most of us will know how this one ends, but the emotionally charged journey to that point is one to behold. 

Led by Ian McIntosh as Jesus, his effortless vocals and powerful upper register were nothing short of outstanding. Not once did he falter during what is an intensely demanding role- both physically and vocally. Hannah Richardson’s Mary was subtle but strong and she delivered some of Lloyd-Webber’s classics perfectly. Her rich, velvety tones made stark contrast with McIntosh’s epic rock vocals, but this just made it all the more electric. 

Shem Omari James’ Judas was high-powered and convincing. Though his diction wasn’t always the clearest, the passion was dialed up to 100 and it didn’t detract from the overall performance. Our three leads were supported by one of the most impressive ensembles that I’ve ever seen. Barely off the stage, they were the power source of the entire production; tirelessly pounding out Drew McOnie’s dynamic, narrative-driven choreography. 

Just when you think you might be bordering on overload, in comes Julian Clary. His trademark schtick and flamboyant demeanor cut through the high intensity piece at just the right time to provide a moment’s light relief. He may only be on stage for a few minutes, but you can’t deny his star-turn is worthy of the top-billing he has received- the audience was in the palm of his hand as the ever camp King Herod. Add on top of this the camp-factor of the priests and, if you squinted, you could well have been at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Tom Scutt’s industrial set is made up of iron beams with biblical motifs scattered throughout. An enormous iron cross is carved out of a solid metal backdrop which lays on the ground in the wake of its hollow counterpart, through which we can see the Judas tree; a sign of events yet to pass, foreshadowed right from the very moment in which the curtain rises. Lee Curran’s lighting design plays effortlessly into Scutt’s staging and transports us stylishly and effectively from scene to scene. A particular highlight came at the end of act 2 which was, frankly, goosepimple inducing.  Poppy Hall’s costumes married old and new, combining ancient colour palettes with a functional, fresh outcome. (In all honesty, I would have taken these home for my own wardrobe any day!)

Timothy Sheader’s strong direction was so evident whilst watching. The entire creative team brought together an intense spectacle that even the most seasoned theatregoer couldn’t help but be shocked and moved by. Upon arriving at the Palace Theatre tonight, I was intrigued as to how a show such as this might fare some 52 years after its Broadway premiere. Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if this piece continues to wow audiences for 52 more years to come. 

This show was reviewed on the 13th September.  Jesus Christ Superstar runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until the 23rd September 2023.  Tickets available here: Jesus Christ Superstar Tickets | Palace Theatre Manchester in Manchester | ATG Tickets

Full tour details can be found here: Jesus Christ Superstar • UK Tour • Official Website & Tickets

Review written by Lee Gregory

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Photo credit: Paul Coltas

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