An impressive presentation in an interesting venue made this evening’s performance of Jesus Christ Superstar a memorable theatrical experience! From the start, the director Kirsteen Stafford transported us from the present day, through a whistle-stop tour of wars and dictators using innovative video projection, back to the Roman occupied Jerusalem. Then in Act II, we fast-forward to the modern day, demonstrating the continued relevance of the issues and messages in today’s world. A well-thought out concept.
Ian Page (Jesus) impressed the audience with his vocal range and passionate performance. His portrayal of Gethsemane is particularly poignant. He gave us many a spine-tingling moment with his impressive vocals. Equally powerful was Thom Stafford’s portrayal of Judas. Again, extremely challenging vocals were performed with ease and conviction. His cool and calm demeanour and excellence stage presence worked extremely well for this challenging role. The classic song I Don’t Know How to Love Him was full of emotion and Anya McCutcheon Wells put all she had into the role of Mary, working really well alongside Jesus, showing a deeper character than is sometimes seen in this role.
The large chorus were used effectively and there was some imaginative staging in some of the larger numbers, enhanced by the choreography of Corinne Keeber and Adam Swift. Add to this a well-designed lighting plot (Chris Lamb) and the effect is as good as in any theatre setting.
The large company meant that supporting roles were well cast from a wealth of talent within the group and special mention must go to Sam Cox (Simon) and Mark Shaun Walsh (Annas) for their strong performances. Louis Delaney (Peter) performed confidently an excellent duet (Could We Start Again Please) with Mary – one of the highlights of the evening for me. After seeing him play several comic roles, it was fantastic to see James Gough perform a commanding and austere Pilate.
Peter Farndon (Musical Director) had one of the toughest jobs of the evening, controlling a large band and an even larger cast in a very unusual space! Despite a few balance issues and timing discrepancies, this was an excellent achievement. On another note, I appreciated the short synopsis of each musical number to ensure a full understanding of this age-old story.
A wonderful audience reaction on this opening night demonstrates that SMASH Musical Theatre Group have a real success on their hands and should be proud of their fresh and innovative performance!
Jesus Christ Superstar runs at the Solihull Methodist Church until Saturday, 24th March.
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