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Review - Jesus Christ Superstar: ambitious and entertaining

By Liv Wilson

Jesus Christ Superstar

Music by Andrew Lloyd webber

Lyrics by Tim Rice

Director Kaela Gray

Musical Director Benjamin Richards

Choreographer Kylie Davis-Davenport

Vocal Director Taylor Holmes

Beenleigh Theatre Group

Crete Street Theatre

Season: every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Saturday 25th February.

Loosely based on the Gospels, Superstar focuses on the personal conflicts between Jesus, his disciples, the people of Israel, and the leadership of Rome. Special attention is played to the relationship between Judas Iscariot and Jesus, as well as Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene.

The musical is unique among biblical retellings in that it focuses on both Judas’ struggle making the decision to betray Jesus and Jesus’ human psychology, fear, and anger in understanding and accepting his role as both leader and martyr.

Beenleigh Theatre Group’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar was ambitious and entertaining. Everything from the direction to the performers to the stage and orchestra was an ambitious and courageous take on the already offbeat musical. I was impressed by the character dedication from the entire cast; each performer was invested and enthralled with the performance which was a treat for the audience to bear witness to.

Casting Isaac Brown as Judas was a great choice, his vocals and overall personification of Judas seemed on point from the start of the first number. Brown’s edgy approach was received well by the audience and he ended up being a personal favourite of mine. His vocals in Heaven on their Minds and Jesus Christ Superstar were some of the best of the evening thanks to Brown’s charisma and vocal quality. I’d love to see Isaac in a role that captured his vocal range more accurately because the rock tones and rich growl he has is too good to pass on!

Sophia Dimopoulos as Jesus was a bold and exciting choice. On most fronts Sophia did a stellar job and led the ensemble nicely. However, it felt as if Sophia’s vocal range was sitting slightly outside of what was required for the role of Jesus which left her to default to her acting- which, luckily, is brilliant. Dimopoulos’ energy in some of the larger more prolific scenes was a nice dedication to the inner struggle Jesus faced coming up against so many conflicting feelings and societal expectations.

The chemistry between Sophia and Abigail Ellerton (Mary Magdalene) was natural and provided a nice break in the busier scenes. Ellerton’s vocals were angelic and consistently on point all evening. Her ability to harmonise and blend with her co-performers was impressive, especially in ‘Could We Start Again, Please?’. ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ was undoubtedly one of the best numbers in the musical and I believe Ellerton’s smooth vocals and emotionally charged character portrayal played an important factor in that.

The lyrics weren’t altered to reflect Jesus’ female persona in BTG’s production which made songs like ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ slightly jarring. However, King Herod’s Song and opening monologue were adjusted to reflect Cassie Baan’s gender. The inconsistency was strange and played on my mind during the performance. I’m unsure if this was an intentional choice but nonetheless it’s something that stuck out in the performance.

Cassie Baan’s opening monologue was a crowd favourite and allowed the audience to ‘set the scene’ in an organic way.

The interpretation of the famously opposing sides were done through a political election style narrative featuring the Nazareth Party (on the left) and Roman Party (on the far right). This was a unique touch and I was impressed by the way the company was able to consistently stick to the theme without making it feel like a stretch.

The direction for King Herod was confusing for me and I felt like some of the modern references in ‘King Herod’s Song’ weren’t an advancement to the story. The idea of having a TV show run by the King to spread opinion and propaganda was a strange way to tell that character’s story and a scene in the show where I wasn’t immersed in the world that had been built.

Choreography and dance (Kylie Davis Davenport) was featured significantly more than I expected. At times I think it became a slight distraction as it pulled focus from the performer/s that were leading the scene. The interpretive dancers that played multiple supporting characters were all fantastic and carried out the extensive dance routines with great focus and style. Dance Captain Hannah Collins was especially eye-catching and led the ensemble numbers with charisma.

The cast’s commitment to the modern messaging and influence was impressive and I believe the show will be received well by audiences due to its ability to take risks and show new meaning to these well-loved songs.

The performance contains mature themes and is recommended for audiences 15 and over.


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