New Theatre, Park Place, Cardiff, Thurs 29 Jan
As a virgin to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original masterpiece, I was excited to be the only person in the audience who didn’t already know the words to Superstar and therefore be fully impartial.
If you don’t know already, the basic story concerns Jesus and his decision to ignore his friend Judas’ concerns about his rising popularity. At the beginning of Act Two, after Jesus has flown too close to the sun, Judas allows some Roman soldiers to seize him, and we all know what happens next…
This is a musical you simply need to see before you die. It’s an experience which allows knowledgeable religious folk and outsider atheists to enjoy themselves in equal measure, because it achieves the feat of accurately portraying the final seven days of Jesus’ life but standing back and critiquing it as well.
Having said that this version of Jesus Christ Superstar wasn’t without its issues. Specifically Rachel Adedeji – who was jarring as Mary Magdalene. Her voice simply wasn’t in the same league as those of her co-stars. It was sometimes so quiet and unconfident that no amount of straining your ears would make a difference.
The other casting choice I’m tempted to question was actually Glenn Carter as Jesus himself. While his credentials speak volumes (he’s played this Jesus before at the Lyceum Theatre in the West End and to critical acclaim on Broadway), it occasionally felt like he was tiresomely going through the motions.
But the rest of the main cast’s boundless energy was infectious, particularly a Meatloaf-like Tim Rogers as Judas (who was so good that I almost found myself rooting for him). The supporting cast were equally vibrant, adding layer upon musical layer of context to Jesus’ story.
Praise should also be heaped upon Wales’ own Rhydian, as Pontius Pilate, and Cavin Cornwall as Caiaphas – the leader of the Priests. During a generally muffled sound production, Rhydian’s voice shot around the theatre with great clarity, and Cornwall’s bottomless tones in his rendition of This Jesus Must Die were jaw-dropping.
In summary, regardless of what religious group you do or don’t belong to, you won’t want Jesus to get crucified in the end, and not just because it’s painful for him. It’s memorable toe-tapping fun that feels far more modern than it actually is.
I just hope (and pray) that the smothered sound problems don’t last for the rest of the tour.
words MATTHEW BRIGDEN photos PAMELA RAITH
Jesus Christ Superstar, New Theatre, Cardiff, Mon 26-Sat 31 Jan. Tickets: £14-£45. Info: www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk