Above: Jay Cullen as Judas Iscariot, Rickard Roach as Annas and Mark Gardner as Caiphas. Featured image: Kyle Nozza as Jesus Christ with ensemble. Photo credit- Grant Leslie Photography
This is solid entertainment and a stunningly updated version of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original 1971 classic. Audiences will be moved and leave the theatre singing the well known music which has been excitingly repackaged. I still am.
Successful lighting, filmic rear-stage projection, a multi-level set design and a diversity of modern costuming ensure that this show is a visual spectacle throughout. These production values bring us an engaging, edgy and entirely believable piece of suffering.
It is a current and relevant retelling Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s nod at the Christian story of a sacrificed Saviour. It pushes creative boundaries quite far but not too far and delights our modern and very visual sensibilities.
Several ‘superstars’ grace this stage. Vocally, James Gander as Pontius Pilate is forever rewarding with warm controlled tone and measured swoop to his acting. ‘Pilate’s Dream’ was a well carved out signpost of foreboding and a well delivered mood changer.
Ileana Pipitone brought the role of Mary Magdalene to the Sutherland Entertainment Centre with an open directness of physical approach and truthful tone and expert blend in ensemble moments. These exchanges reached a relaxed intensity of colour in ‘Can we start again, Please?’ where she ably led the group emotional statement.
The shifting emotions in the final week of Jesus’ earthly life were sung with formidable clarity and with pleasing stage presence by Kyle Nozza. He demonstrates an amazingly keen and humble conversational lilt whilst delivering us some huge direct-hit notes. Challenging shifts between types of vocal voice and many chest voice high register exclamations were attacked with thrilling passion here.
Above: Ileana Pipitone as Mary Magdalene and Kyle Nozza as Jesus with ensemble. Photo credit: Grant Leslie Photography.
This show’s traditional larger-than-life King Herod as played by Lachlan O’Brien and dancers illuminates the stage here. It is such a theatrical number as this which proves audiences need to leave the lounge room and reality TV to discover emerging talent supplying the real deal live locally. Herod’s dancers are ably re-invented later as an angelic hoodie hip-hop troupe in another stellar stage innovation.
Acting highlights include the multifaceted edginess displayed by Jay Cullen in a restless yet vulnerable portrayal of the torments of Judas Iscariot. The temple priests are also a terrific presence with varied dramatic tone and attitude in equal portions. The busy ensemble are also believable and focussed as they move smoothly through the constant shifts of the stage storyboard.
Some moments exist where the active ensemble’s vocal part-singing and textural power could be stronger or more defined within the melee but these are brief. However the languid hypnotic mood created in the ‘The Last Supper’ scene. Here, gorgeous groove and well blended part singing are up with the most seamless to be found in any historical stage or screen version of this musical.
At all times the band played with well chosen tempi and with the necessary momentum this rock musical demands. They were at all times successfully sympathetic to the onstage sound level being produced.
The ‘John 19:41’ 39 lashes scene is one of this version’s many standout action segments . As led again consistently commandingly by James Gander’s’ Pontius Pilate it uses the assembled sinners of mankind to slash n mark the Saviour in what is indeed a directorial and choreographic master stroke. The macabre energy level and pace never wanes throughout this sequence.
Miranda Musical Society’s Jesus Christ Superstar concludes its run on Sunday Mar 23. Fans of blockbuster musicals should save the dates of September 25-29 for this group’s production of Les Misérables.