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Jesus Christ Superstar at Birmingham Hippodrome - Review

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by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Does This Famous Rock Musical Stand The Test Of Time?
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar broke all records when it first ran in the West End in ths 1970s, rocketing them to superstardom themselves.

Jesus Christ Superstar, review, Birmingham Hippodrome, musicals
Jesus Christ Superstar stops off at Birmingham Hippodrome during the latest UK tour

I saw Jesus Christ Superstar at Birmingham Hippodrome, where it is stopping off for a week during its UK tour from November 2 to 8. The show then moves on to His Majesty's Theatre in Aberdeen from November 9 to 14.

Decades on and this musical still feels fresh and dynamic with a grandiose, impressive set and memorable songs.

From curtain up, you can tell this is a big budget show with even bigger aspirations. The set recreates the ancient Middle Eastern lands with gigantic, intricately carved pillars and huge doors looming over all the action. Meanwhile, centre-stage, an enormous crown of thorns hangs menacingly and is lowered dramatically at pivotal points in the story.

Jesus Christ Superstar, review, Birmingham Hippodrome, musicals
Jesus Christ Superstar still feels fresh and dynamic

Following the last seven days in the life of Jesus, it's a story most people will know well and Lloyd Webber and Rice have cleverly played on that to turn the focus of attention on to the supporting cast - the emotions and reasonings behind Judas, Mary Magdalene, King Herod and Roman governor Pontius Pilate in particular.

It is a rock soap opera that is so unique, you'll be pushed to have seen anything like it before. There's a touch of modernity to this age-old story, not just in the songs, but the style, the costumes and the extraordinary singing.

The Roman guards have riot police helmets, the disciples have the fashion sense of trendy hippies and Jesus hits rock falsetto notes that are more associated with Axl Rose from Guns'n' Roses.

Glenn Carter in the lead role is exceptional. He's had plenty of time to perfect the role of Jesus in both the West End and Broadway, for which he won the Most Outstanding Performance In A Musical Award from The Drama League. His vocal range is outstanding and he has a real presence on stage.

Jesus Christ Superstar, review, Birmingham Hippodrome, musicals
Tim Rogers is impressive as Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar

Matching him is beguiling musical theatre star Tim Rogers as Judas Iscariot, making their scenes together a highlight of the show.

Rachel Adedeji, a finalist in The X Factor in 2009, is cast as Mary Magdalene and although she has a fine, soft voice, she's not as vocally powerful or dramatic as the other strong leads around her - but with compelling songs like I Don't Know How to Love Him and Everything's Alright, she still engages with the crowd.

A few years ago, a version of Jesus Christ Superstar toured arenas across the UK and starred DJ Chris Moyles and former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm as Mary. Those who have seen that version were quick to comment that they felt Mel C's version of Mary was more memorable.

Jesus Christ Superstar, review, Birmingham Hippodrome, musicals
Tom Gilling as King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar

Despite the controversy of tackling a new take on this religious story, the musical is actually very respectful.

It's only really King Herod who suffers any disrespect, appearing as a gluttonous villain wearing nipple tassles and make-up. He does, however, get one of the catchiest songs in the show with Herod's Song.

After the interval, the show becomes much darker and holds nothing back as it follows Judas' fate and explores Jesus' capture, torture and crucifixion by the Romans.

The scenes are strong on drama as well as atmosphere, particularly when Jesus suffers a whipping.

It's the final scenes depicting the crucifixion that are brilliantly choreographed but also tortuous to watch as actor Glenn Carter whimpers and screams with pain while hanging off a cross.

Jesus Christ Superstar, review, Birmingham Hippodrome, musicals
Compelling theatre in Jesus Christ Superstar

It's no wonder this marked itself out as a ground-breaking piece of theatre, and it still has the power to shock today.

Don't be mistaken into thinking you need to be religious to enjoy this show for it's a spectacular piece of theatre that anyone who loves musicals will enjoy.

Jesus Christ Superstar stands out from the crowd as a compelling, ambitious and utterly mesmerising show. It's like nothing you will have seen before and I recommend you see it.

Rating: 9/10

Jesus Christ Superstar
Birmingham Hippodrome
November 2 - 8, 2015
Tickets cost from 20 from the Birmingham Hippodrome website.
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Why? See Fantastic Renowned Musical Jesus Christ Superstar
When: Touring until November 14
Phone: 0844 338 5000 - Birmingham Hippodrome
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome
Cost: From 20
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