Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Colchester Mercury

Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber at Colchester Mercury until October 22.

Gimme that old time rock’n’roll religion. No half measures with Colchester Operatic’s full-steam belt into the musical that started the composer and lyricist on their road to fame and fortune back in 1971. It’s a good production, beautifully sung on a big, simple dramatic set.

There’s much to admire in a show that, in spite of its loud pop pretentions, has a lot of songs that are not easy to sing in semi-operatic orchestrations. This is particularly true of numbers by Jesus, Judas and Pilate.

The society has a real find in Tom Stapleton in the title role. He has a voice of stunning range and his delivery of Gethsemane in which he tells God how frightened he is of his coming ordeal is very moving. And he is matched by Shane King’s clear-toned tenor as Judas who betrays Jesus, he says, because he has allowed things to get out of hand, out of control.

A rich, dark baritone, John Davies is a stand-out ‘wash-my-hands’ Pilate and Leanne Fincham does well by Mary with her big song, I Don’t Know How to Love Him .But all the singing is good, especially the very important chorus work which covers several different groups and comes in right on cue and with every word distinct.

One doubts if the relationship between Mary and Jesus was quite as touchy-feely as this musical makes it, but it’s a show that builds brilliantly to its inevitable crucifixion conclusion which gives the piece a very unusual quiet, poignant ending.

The first night decibels from the very good band were occasionally a bit over the top, causing some slight distortion of sound and the people operating the spotlights were not always on target, but this is a show that will settle nicely and well worth a visit.

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David Henshall.

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