It would be easy to run out of superlatives to describe Pulteney Grammar’s exciting production of this Rice/Webber rock opera. Director Jo Casson has overseen an extraordinary piece of musical theatre in which I could not find one weak link. I have seen many productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and this matched or exceeded them all.
It was a dynamic and well-coordinated production from start to finish. Set against some stunning screened images upstage, and with well-placed scaffolding along the rear and sides to provide a striking variety of levels, the large cast was committed and engaged in every scene. Importantly, all performers on stage, and the well-modulated orchestra at the rear, provided just the right mood for every part of the well known biblical story.
Much of that was due to the splendid choreography of Rosanna Dobre and Jo Casson. That was a strong feature of almost every scene, whether by the specialist dancers or, indeed, the whole cast. The movement enhanced the entire production. The choreographers made full use of the huge Futures Church stage, by wisely deploying the large cast across its entire width.
Central to all of the action was Oscar Bridges as Jesus. From the outset he struck a delightfully empathetic tone in both voice and action. Using spare yet telling actions, he interpreted the role subtly and with conviction. He sang with admirable control and over a huge range. He was, in short, superb.
Matching his energy was Taylor Schwartz as Judas. She was a commanding presence and her strong singing, coupled with energetic physicality, made for a very fine performance.
Ella Wood provided a wonderful contrast as Mary Magdalene. She sang with a gentle strength and portrayed Mary’s character with refinement. Her important solo sections of Everything’s Alright and I Don’t Know How To Love Him were extremely affecting.
Liam Goodes played Caiaphas with power and menace, and was well supported by Abbey Wilkinson as Annas. Isabella Haarsma was a nuanced Pontius Pilate, which showed her dramatic skills as well as her clear and tuneful singing. Among the apostles, Sophie Fonovic and Patrick Longden were convincing in both characterisation and singing. On that topic, many members of the ensemble were, rightly, acknowledged in the programme as Featured Cast. Every one of them, in their chorus work and particularly in their brief solos, sang strongly and accurately.
Hamish Wilkinson was marvellous in King Herod’s song, well-supported by his flamboyant dance troupe. It was, as it was intended to be, a show-stopper.
The costume design by Jo Casson was pertinent to all scenes, from the flower power children of the era when the musical was written, to the threatening, spiky black outfits of Caiaphas and his fellow high priests and the outrageously show-biz glamour of King Herod and his dancers. Great credit to the costume coordinator Anna Wilkinson and her assistants for ensuring a number of very quick changes for several of the cast.
This was an outstanding production by any measure. I couldn’t fault it.