Review: Jesus Christ Superstar: Harvest Rain Theatre

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Top Posts of 2010

This review refers to Harvest Rain’s recent ‘first’ production of JCS and was originally published on August 26, 2010

And so, finally, to the theatre last night for Jesus Christ Superstar at QPAC …

From the moment those unforgettable screeching guitar riffs at the top of the show break the silence, you know you’re in for a wild ride.  At its inception JCS was a brilliant, irreverent break with tradition and, given its subject matter, which brought protesters out with placards (yes, really), it was a triumph for a musical theatre which had got used to sweetly melodic, fairly safe and predictable plotlines in mostly Broadway shows – as well as the fact that Brits couldn’t write blockbuster musicals.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice put paid to that with their second biblical opus – the first was Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. JCS is arguably their freshest and best – Cats notwithstanding. It’s the gutsiest and was, and still is, a big show on all fronts. It brought rock rhythms and song lyrics that shocked and delighted with their contemporary edge: ‘Hey JC, JC’ you’re all right with me’; ‘I couldn’t cope, just couldn’t cope’; ‘Prove to me that you’re no fool, walk across my swimming pool’ are just a few. At the time, the show’s self-styling as a rock opera took a lot of people by surprise; we’d not heard those words before, although Pete Townshend and The Who had produced the first of the genre (Tommy) a couple of years before. The rock part of the name provided the sounds, the style, the gutsiness, whilst the opera gave the drama and the gravitas with, in the case of Jesus Christ Superstar, subject matter straight out of the New Testament.

This revival nearly 40 years on by Tim O’Connor for Harvest Rain Theatre at QPAC’s Playhouse takes on the 1971 breakthrough musical, and gives it a good run for its money. The epic nature of the work is reflected well in the production’s staging. Visually it’s a treat, and musically – well, for a start those those melodies just won’t go away will they – stunning stuff. Many of the musical stylings have been reworked and reworked well under the musical direction of Maitlohn Drew. It’s a big, big cast of talented, good looking principals and an energetic all-singing, all dancing chorus; set and lighting are terrific. Continue reading Review: Jesus Christ Superstar: Harvest Rain Theatre