BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at Ullensaker Kulturhus - The second coming...almost
This is my second review of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in two months, and while the prior was a staged production, this new one at Ullensaker Kulturhus, is a straight up concert. In my opinion it has always worked better as a concert. The Lord agrees with me - Lord Lloyd Webber, that is.
Ingelin Dahl Helbø and Erland Helbø conceived this concert. With a five-piece band, nine soloists and a choir of close to a hundred participants they presented a very powerful concert performance. It was nice to hear the sound-scape was more like the original (Ian Gillan) concept album than its later stage-incarnations.
The biggest standout at this performance was Samuel Brandt as Judas Iscariot. Both his singing and acting was top notch and he commanded both the stage and the audience, especially during "Heaven on Their Minds" and "Superstar". Brandt put the anguish of Judas into every line, every movement. With his musical theatre skills, he made the rock lyrics understandable and the emotion plain to see. And his singing was through the roof in quality and impact.
Sølve Oftebro gave a very instense and anguished portrayel of Jesus. It was a new spin on the role and very raw. I defineltly liked what he did with the character. His acting level seemed to increase in intensity, as Jesus grew closer to his death. I have seen Oftebro perform previously, and he has an impressive range and produces some of the highest rock' notes I have witnessed. Last night though, and especially during Jesus' signature song, "Gethsemane" he had some vocal/pitch issues that made controlling the highest notes difficult, which was a shame becuase when he controlled it was pure magic!
Silje Hagrim Dahl brings a juvenile quality to Maria Magdalena that felt new and fresh. She may be a soprano, but she sure knows how to belt. Her "I Don't Know How to Love Him" was stunning, but her true shining moment was during "Could We Start Again Please". Brava!
Morten Bergheim as Pilate was solid, true and down to earth. Bergheim takes the style of singing back to its roots of the original concept album, which had less of a booming baritone and more pop sound. He is also by far the strongest actor in the ensemble, and made the "Trail by Pilate/39 lashes" a joy to witness.
The supporting cast is also very strong. Mattis Johannessen is a large and booming Caiaphas, while Erik Bauck Bårdstu's Annas is a nice high-pitched counterpoint. Eirik Jahren Røine, who I last saw on the very same stage in "The Full Monty", did a Simon Zealotes full of rock energy and edginess. Thomas Stokke's rendition of Peter was warm and truthful. Magnus Oen Torsvik presented King Herode in drag with curlers in his hair and silver platted slippers. Delicious!
The overly energetic choir had a party on stage, and we were all invited along. Their sound was for the most part good (Especially during "Superstar"), but there were some places where more work would have been needed. Generally there was also a sound unbalance between the male and female voices (Especially the bass voice was almost totally gone). The men of Ullensaker needs to join choirs, right now!
The band, led by the cool rugged guitarist Erland Helbø, were fantastic. They took the rock aspect of the original concept album an "amped it up to eleven". I would have wished for more piano and less synth. Since a five-piece band can't replicate the sound of a bigger orchestra I would have hoped they would just be a rock band and work from that.
In conclusion I will say that the concert worked extremely well (for the most part), and had there been a few more rehearsals before opening, thay would have solved those irritating last-minute glitches, this would have been received a full score. I am looking forward to their next big project.