Last Updated on 27th August 2022
Paul T Davies reviews Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar being performed in the big top as part of the Frinton Summer Theatre season.
Jesus Christ Superstar.
Frinton Summer Theatre
23 August 2022
Frinton Summer Theatre Website
My first confession: I’ve never seen Jesus Christ Superstar till now. My second confession: I am not a huge fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. My third confession: While I have not become a full convert, Clive Brill’s inventive, extraordinary big top production has shone a light on the musical’s strengths with clarity and emotion. Performed by an outstanding company, this is the The Greatest Story meets The Greatest Showman, with ariel performances as well as many circus elements. It’s as if leaving the MacGregor Hall has elevated the company, free from constraints, yet the traverse staging keeps the intimacy of the venue.
The cast excels. Tim Rogers captures perfectly Christ’s last journey, seeming almost too believing of his fame and adoration at first, then you gradually discover how uncomfortable he is being a superstar- the slightest movement conveys so much doubt- dare I say he humanises the role? Hugh Maynard, an outstanding Sweeny Todd at the Mercury a few years ago, is equally stunning as Judas, a sympathetic performance, deeply moving. Rebecca Worth is an outstanding Mary, not just in her stand-out ballad I Don’t Know How To Love Him, but if you move your eyes towards her at any moment, she is fully engaged in the story. Special mention must go to the deep bass tones of Jad Habchi’s Caiaphas, filling the tent with power, and Clive Brill himself has a wonderful turn as Ringmaster Herod. But there isn’t a week link, and add to that outstanding musical direction by Steven Edis, and a truly wonderful choir, (look at them at any point, they are fully with the story), and we have something special here. The design suits the venue superbly, and I loved the Clockwork Orange feel to authority, strip fluorescent lighting being very effective as a threatening presence.
Whether you have Christian faith or not, you have a heart of stone to not be moved by the story, and the production instinctively knows that the best thing to do is let the music sing for itself, no reimagining is needed. It’s been a passion project for Clive Brill, trying to secure the rights for years, ever since he was taken to see the original production by his drama teacher. I really appreciate that the show is dedicated to all drama teachers that ignite a passion for theatre. I say it’s been worth the wait, every fan of the show needs to head to the beautiful Essex coast to experience this production.
Until September 4th