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Young cast has all the makings as debut musical impresses
A great deal has changed in the world since Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice first unveiled their controversial rock opera on the Broadway stage in New York in 1971. So it is no great surprise that this first-ever musical production by the Lichfield Garrick Young REP company should have undergone some significant changes of its own. The most obvious development is that the role of Jesus, played by Paul Nicholas in the West End show from 1972, is performed by a female, as is that of one of 'his' disciples, Simon. The entire cast, which is currently performing Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lichfield Garrick theatre from February 19 to February 22, are also dressed in matching boiler suits, with just a few accessories to distinguish the main characters.
Jesus Christ Superstar turns back the clock 50 years. Credit Pamela Raith Photography
There are other changes too from the original of half a century ago, notably that director Jonny McLean portrays Jesus as a young activist whose followers urge him to lead the people in seeking to overthrow those in power. It is a bold and fresh approach to the original award-winning production, which portrays the final few days of Jesus Christ's life on earth entirely through song. But that is where Lloyd Webber and Rice's original masterpiece remains unaltered - in the quality of the music that still shines through today. The Garrick Young REP musical also stays true in looking at the final week of Jesus' life through the eyes of disciple, Judas Iscariot, who ultimately betrays Christ following his arrival in Jerusalem, leading to his eventual crucifixion.
Jesus (centre) is portrayed as an activist and rebel. Pamela Raith Photography
The Garrick Young REP are indebted to some splendid vocalists, in particular, Ellie May Quinn as Mary Magdalene, who gives a superb rendition of the show-stopping 'I Don't Know How To Love Him', and Alex Nicholls as the conflicted Judas. But everyone gives an accomplished, energetic performance in this excellent production, notably Genevieve Richards as Jesus and Alfie Kentesber as Caiaphas who realises the only solution to Jesus's growing popularity and pulling power is for him to die. The second half of the show sees the equally powerful 'Superstar' performed shortly before the final crucifixion scene.
The hit musical benefits from a great score. Pamela Raith Photography
Jesus Christ Superstar continues at the Lichfield Garrick until Saturday 22 February. Tickets costing from £15 can be obtained by visiting www.lichfieldgarrick.com or by calling the box office on 01543 412121.