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Review Roundup: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at London's O2 Arena- All the Reviews!

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  • Last night, 21 September, 2012, at the O2 Arena in London was the first show of the new arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Melanie C as Mary Magdalene, Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot, Chris Moyles as King Herod and 'Superstar' winner Ben Forster as Jesus.

Celebrating 40 years since it first opened in London's West End, the Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour will go on to visit Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham, Belfast, Dublin, Liverpool and Nottingham. The tour culminates in Sheffield on 21 October.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Michael Coveney, The Independent: Now [Jesus Christ Superstar] is ear-splittingly restored to its heavy metal rock origins in a thrilling production by Laurence Connor that uses the insignia of Occupy London, newsreel and video reportage and a game show voting process at the court of King Herod – is he a Lord or a Fraud, ladies and gentlemen, text this number – to renew the energy of political insurgency and repression. And while one may have had doubts about the wisdom of finding a new Jesus through a television talent contest with an audience decision for the unknown Geordie, Ben Forster, that process in itself reflects the showbiz fickle character of the show; and Ben Forster proves a wonderful discovery, passing the sternest test, the great arioso soliloquy in Gethsemane, with flying, high-rock tenor colours.

Laura Thompson, The Telegraph: What fearless and prescient young men Lloyd-Webber and Rice were, back in 1970, writing a work about Jesus's last days on earth that puts Judas Iscariot at the heart of the story: that makes Judas the figure through whom we question, not Jesus Christ himself, but the nature of power and fame and blind following. Tim Minchin is simply superb in the role. He sings amazingly well, but it is his face full of weary intelligence that keeps the heart of the show pure, in the midst of all the amplification (the sound is very much that of a rock gig) and razzmatazz...Ben Forster, who won the role of Jesus on ITV's Superstar, proves that the public vote can sometimes get things right: he looks great and sings powerfully. Melanie Chisholm, a lovely relaxed Mary Magdalene, proves again that she was too good for the Spice Girls; while Chris Moyles, delightful as Herod, proves that there is life beyond Radio 1. But it is Minchin who proves that Jesus Christ Superstar is a work of conceptual genius.

Carrie Dunn, BroadwayWorld: It is a shame that this version, debuting at the O2 Arena before a UK tour (and possibly a West End run) seems so vividly to prioritise concept over content...the stand-out star of the show - by some distance - is Tim Minchin as Judas...And Ben Forster, the winner of one of those phone votes, shows off fair vocal chops; and to give him credit, proved himself to be a more capable vocalist than I had given him credit for during the 'Superstar' series. However, at the moment he still lacks some of the presence and charisma needed for a truly believable Jesus...Against a fascinating and thoughtful Judas, a stroppy, message-less Jesus ends up being significantly overshadowed - and unlikeable.

Lyn Gardner, The Guardian: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," cries an agonised Jesus on the cross. But it's the good lord, otherwise known as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who should have known better than to crucify his own child by presenting it in this arena format with a Jesus (Ben Forster) cast from a TV talent show, a former Spice Girl – Mel C – as Mary Magdalene, and Tim Minchin as Judas. Written by Lloyd Webber when he was 21 with lyricist Tim Rice, the show began life as a concept album and a US arena tour before Jesus conquered Broadway in 1971.

Mark Shenton, The Stage: If the production completely fails to sustain the tensions of the story - the loud bits are excruciating, the tender moments lost - that’s largely not the fault of a hard-working, even harder-singing cast. There are a couple of triumphs among the casting. Tim Minchin effortlessly rises above the din to show that there’s nothing this man can’t do, whether it’s being one of the funniest comics working today, a brilliant composer in his own right, or now a powerful leading man of musicals. And Alex Hanson, as Pontius Pilate, lends supreme vocal authority and acting assurance to prove what years of experience can bring to the stage.

Dominic Maxwell, The Times: The show gets the right balance between the spectacular, the jokey and the sincere. The performances from the well-choreographed supporting cast are fine throughout. Honestly, it’s enough to give rock opera a good name.

Photo Credit: Alastair Muir


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