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My review of Jesus Christ Superstar (2000 Stage Version), My Living Room

Regular readers (I keep apologising, but you will keep reading) may remember that a short time ago I got into minor shenanigans on Twitter over my review of the currently touring version of Jesus Christ Superstar. In my review I explained that it was my first time seeing the show and that I was far from impressed by the whole thing. I even described it as "noise".

Well my certain friends on Twitter thought I was unqualified to write a critique of the show as I had little (well no experience, but don't tell them) and condemned me for writing such a review that might bring down the establishment (or maybe slightly less severe, but I like to build my role).

So, on the most suitable of days, Easter Day, I sat down and gave Jesus Christ Superstar another chance with the 2000 filmed version on super deluxe BLU-RAY. It was an epiphany indeed.

Like the touring version, Jesus was played by (a much younger) Glenn Carter, very much the age perhaps that we recognise Jesus to be. He was every bit as good as I remember from Derngate as it was not he I had a problem with in general. Much improved however was Judas Iscariot, this time played with a devilish sneer and then powerful remorse by Jerome Pradon. He was much clearer in voice and every word could be heard.

I think much of my disappointment lies at the sound for the touring version. While some of it is sublime in its work; I particularly liked the way "Jesus Christ Superstar" came bellowing from the back of the auditorium during "Jesus Must Die". Much of the rest was broken and words lost by the shear "noise" of the music. The balance was all wrong, and lost words meant I couldn't follow the story via the lyrics. It's interesting that a couple of those I know enjoyed it, knew the show so well. Maybe if you know what to expect, you hear it even if its not clear. You are probably even singing along maybe? However for a newcomer, I didn't and couldn't, so things were disappearing.

However this should be a review of the 2000 version, so back to that. Renée Castle is a captivating Mary Magdalene whose rendition of "Could We Start Again Please?" is particularly delightful. Its true to say that her cleavage does get distracting at times (I am that shallow), however given her profession, perhaps this is very suitable. Also in the same song, it was superb to hear Cavin Cornwall again (playing this time Peter) who in the touring production was MR DEEP Caiaphas. Finally although his singing wouldn't get awards, the late great Rik Mayall's performance as King Herod is a glorious delight. Everything you expect of Mr Mayall is there, and everything we miss.

The staging and recording of course is superb as you would expect of a specially filmed version (it was filmed at Pinewood). The rather unusual updating works as well. It somehow doesn't feel odd to see Jesus walking in front of television sets, or his followers carrying guns. It also never feels like a film, just a more epic theatre version and this suits the show. Oddly enough I found the Derngate staging of the 39 lashes much more powerful and indeed the crucifixion scene was also better realised there as well. However the whole thing is every bit as good as I wanted it to be when I first saw it. I am glad that I have now learned how to love Jesus Christ Superstar.



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