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Review | JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR by Lynch & Patterson

Strictly Limited Season from Friday 9 July, 2021

For those that know me, know that Jesus Christ Superstar is one of my favourite musicals of all time (tying with the Lion King of course). I've grown up watching the with Ted Neeley and then later the 2012 Arena Tour with Tim Minchin. I can recite all of the lyrics by heart and for a very long time, I Don't Know How to Love Him was fourteen year old me's go to audition song. So getting the chance to finally see it on stage was quite the dream come true and I went in with quite high hopes but unfortunately, I left feeling like not all of those hopes had been realised by this production....

Review | JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR by Lynch & Patterson

Let's start with the good stuff. The choreography by Maureen Bowra, who was also the director, was so enthusiastic and animated; a kaleidoscope of colour that embraced the spirit of Jesus's followers. These moves were complimented by Anita Sweeny's seventies-esque costume design, which featured neon colours, pantsuits, sequins and cowboy boots. The ensemble were the superstars of the show, moving with such animation, expression and ease. But the most impressive part is that unlike some of the other leads, they were acting and embodying their characters with their entire physicality, setting the bar high for the other leads and supporting actors.

The stand out performers from this production would have to be Shannon Foley and his brassy, operatic voice as the Pilate. A favourite moment of mine in the production was watching Foley's body convulse during the whipping scene each time Jesus was whipped. It truly showed the inner turmoil of the character and whether what he was doing was morally correct. Other stand outs were what I call Caiaphas's posse, I know that's not the correct terminology but it just seems right. Joshua Moore's tone as Caiaphas was richly villainous, casting a threatening spell over the audience and Fiona Buchanon, his sidekick Annas, had such a wonderful tone and singing voice. I truly think I could listen to whatever comes out of her mouth. The two of them with fellow priests' Connor Hawkins, Puawai Herewini and Isaac Brown were like the glammy eighties band that I never knew I wanted. Although there were a few sharps at the start, the band was marvellous and created the perfect sound for such an iconic musical. It was such a joy having the band on stage instead of being hidden away from sight, as most companies do.

Review | JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR by Lynch & Patterson

Although he took a bit of time to warm up, Simon Chamberlain's Jesus struck a cord with me, especially his rendition of Gethsemane and his final moments on the cross. However, his performance was let down by the musical directors addition of riffs and notes that weren't a part of the score into select songs that made no sense at all and were clearly only there to show of the actors' vocal range. There were moments like this added in each song which normally featured the lead actors throwing their arms in the air, Freddie Mercury style and closing their eyes, creating an X Factor type feel of the performance. This feel was aided by the use of hand held mics by the leads, which is not something that you'd usually have in a staging of a musical.

Poor Tom Markiewicz who played King Herod had no supporting dancers on stage and hardly any choreography at all for his one song that is meant to be the biggest song in the show. It was quite jarring and I just felt so sorry for the actor who was giving it his everything.

Jesse Ainsworth, who played the role of Judas, had a fantastic rock and roll voice but had a disconnect to his character, which was unfortunate as Judas is the one of the central roles in the show and represents the dichotomy of good and evil and morality and immorality in all of us.

Review | JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR by Lynch & Patterson

I think what ultimately let the show down was that there wasn't an assigned creative who was just in charge of the acting and stagecraft which meant that there was a major imbalance of where the creative energy was being put. A number of leads fell into this trap of being too much musical and not enough theatre, which meant that the chorus had to pick up their slack which thankfully they did.

I would recommend that in Lynch & Patterson's future productions, they have a designated role for director and choreographer as otherwise, they wont capture the spirit of the show, instead of creating the feel of a singing showcase. And if that's feel you want to create, then don't call it Jesus Christ Superstar, call it a tribute show to the musical.

Rating: 3 Stars

Jesus Christ Superstar is running from Fri 9 - Thu 15 Jul, 2021 at the Twelfth Night Theatre.

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