Review by Jack Curtiss
It was an unforgettable experience sitting in the Mark Hellinger Theatre in New York in early 1972 to see the show that had caused such a stir when it opened on Broadway the previous October. The Andrew Lloyd Webber -Tim Rice songs had been released in a 1971 album in the UK but ‘JCS’ had never been staged professionally before the New York debut.
The production starred a vocally gifted but diffident unknown named Jeff Fenholt who, a few months afterward, proclaimed himself a born-again Christian, disavowed his own role in the ‘blasphemous’ enterprise and was largely forgotten by the time many of his Broadway cast-mates appeared in the 1973 movie version.
The current G&S Society production captures much of the vibrant energy, innovative staging and operatic flair of the original and its numerous international clones (the first Australian production opened in Sydney in 1972 with John English and Marcia Hines as Judas and Mary Magdalene).
In the present show, Luke Kennedy, as Jesus, displays a spectacular vocal range in the role as does Danny Lopresto as Judas and Sarah Lloyde who makes a soulful blonde Mary M.
Director Dave Lampard, who also helped with the arresting set design, likewise made a gender switch with Louise Messenger, Cara Louise Brown and others transforming the Jewish high priesthood into a sort of Sanhedrin sorority. Yank Joel Valenti, who portrayed Judas in stateside JCS productions, makes a finely tormented Pontius Pilate. The music, under the direction of Ross Curtis, faithfully kept the furious rock energy and orchestral power required for the show. And Sharon Angoveís choreography was spot-on was were the lighting and sound.
All in all, a sensational outing for a justly treasured piece of contemporary (even 27 years later) musical theatre history.