DISCLOSURE – TICKETS TO SEE THE SHOW WERE GIFTED TO THE REVIEWER AND GUEST FOR THE PURPOSES OF WRITING THE REVIEW
Reviewed by Jenny Bray
This is a typical Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical in terms of it having some really catchy songs that stick in your head for ages and put a smile on your face. It came from the period which hasn’t been rivalled since; when he just kept producing fantastic musicals. This was only his third musical, which came out in 1971, so over 50 years ago!
This musical is one of the very first that started my love of musicals when I was a child. I hadn’t been to see it, but remember listening to the soundtrack on my Dad’s reel to reel (Yes, showing my age there and an item most people under 30 probably won’t even have heard of!). It was clear from the buzz in the audience before the start that many people had seen the show before. I even heard one person in the interval saying it was her third show in ten days as she loved it so much!
The plot is that of the last days of Jesus’ life, betrayal and ultimate crucifixion. If you were told that the story would make a really successful global musical, I’m not sure it would be believed as it may seem a preachy, religious story pushing God on you. This is not the case at all though and this musical deserves all the success it has already and continues to achieve. The amount of time that it has been around is an obvious sign of its success.
I was a little wary of it being a ‘remastered’ version. However, it just seems to have made it more up to date and edgy, so worked well. The music has always erred towards rock music and this version seems to take advantage of that even more with the stage being set up in a similar way to a concert with just spotlights on the person singing at times and microphones on stands being used.
The music really is central to this show and therefore the voices were key. I loved Shem Omari James as Judas who had a great vocal range and sounded like he was putting his all in to it. I also enjoyed Hannah Richardson’s performance as Mary, especially her heartfelt and slightly soulful rock version of ‘I don’t know how to love him’. Ian McIntosh was great as Jesus, if a little clean cut looking for my liking, starting the show in a baseball cap. His rendition of ‘Gethsemane’ came across as a great mix between anguish and acceptance. I also loved the deep bass singing of Jad Habchi as Caiaphas.
The stage was very simply set, with black as the main colour and industrial looking scaffolding sections holding up the musicians, who were partially integrated in to the show. There is a huge cross with spotlights in and tree sections curling round the crossed part central to the stage, with the shadow of the cross as a raised platform on the stage. It remained the same throughout and worked really well. I really liked the clever use of some of the props. When the priests came out their staffs flipped to be their microphone holders.
Singing about ‘Poor Jerusalem’ seems even more apt with the current issues so felt even more poignant than some of the other songs.
The ensemble for this show is quite large and are often on stage dancing. The choreographer, Christopher Tendai, deserves a mention for his amazing skills bringing the ensemble together with really contemporary and modern co-ordinated moves that enhanced the story.
The clothing is simple but modern, which felt in keeping with the whole style of the show. There were leather jackets and lots of glitter, which I’d never have expected to see in this show! The use of glitter and silver paint for some key parts was really effective.
I think the sound engineer needed to get used to the acoustics of the Alhambra, as at times some of the characters were very loud. When there were lots of the characters on stage it was also sometimes hard to understand what they were singing. This was only a slight distraction from an otherwise amazing show though.
The Alhambra is fairly central to Bradford and is easy to find. The car park behind the National Science and Media Museum is only £1 after 6pm and only a short walk from the theatre. Please be aware that there are currently roadworks all around the city centre and theatre area so allow a little more time for parking and reaching the theatre than you usually would.
The cast for this show are full of energy, enthusiastic and made it a joy to watch. The vocals of all the leads were incredible and I really enjoyed the whole show. There were lots of cheers for many of the characters when bowing at the end.
Tickets cost from £19.50 to £51.50 (inclusive of booking fee)
Jesus Christ Superstar is on at Bradford Alhambra between 27th November and 2nd December 2023.
For more information or to book tickets visit www.bradford-theatres.co.uk or call the Box Office on 01274 432000
Bradford Theatres, The Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ
For further tour dates please visit; https://uktour.jesuschristsuperstar.com