By Sandra Harman
Inspired by the original 1970 concept album, Lynch and Paterson’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar currently playing at Brisbane’s iconic Twelfth Night Theatre, lovingly showcases its rock opera beginnings while adding a fresh, vibrant feel and look.
From the moment the curtains open on a smoky stage with a vibrant guitar riff to the last strains of the final instrumental number, the high calibre of this production is obvious.
Designer David Lawrence has created a simple contemporary set that fits beautifully within the theatres stage space, creates impact and serves the production well. The focus is a raised central dais which has been decorated with an original evocative symbol created specifically by Lawrence for this production. Symbolic trumpets surrounding the central symbol on the dais effectively point outwards to indicate the flow of the staging out and down via levels of steps to the floor and front of stage. This is flanked on both sides by the orchestra, and a lone drummer sits atop a high platform behind the central dais.
Every inch of this staging is utilized creatively by Director and Choreographer, Maureen Bowra as the characters moved through all the musical numbers. Choreography varied from flowing, relaxed, or celebratory to hard and sharp dependent on the mood required for the scene, and was executed strongly by the large cast. Bowra gave each character or group an individual style.
Costuming by Anita Sweeney was firmly planted in the 70’s, from the Woodstock inspired ‘flower-power”, “earth child” style of the ensemble and orchestra, the Glam Rock styling of the Priests and Herod, to the Donny Osmond reminiscent pop idol look of an all-white clad Jesus, and a nod to the Vietnam war with a touch of Camo in a particular scene.
Matching each musical number’s mood to perfection, the lighting design by Tom Dodds created some stunningly powerful images, and particularly used the centre Dais to great effect.
The challenge of imparting the story of the last days of Jesus Christ only through a rock opera score, with some vocally challenging numbers is a huge task, and this cast was clearly capable of delivering, and did not disappoint.
Simon Chamberlain’s clean cut pop idol Jesus, and Jesse Ainsworth’s angry hard rock Judas were perfect foils for each other both physically and vocally. Both performers dominated the stage with their vocals and conviction in conveying characters at odds with their faith.
Samantha Sherrin as Mary gave a caring, yet ultimately fragile portrayal of a woman not sure of her own emotions. Sherrin’s rendition of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” was an audience favourite.
As leader of the priests, Caiaphas, a dark souled man jealous of Jesus’ popularity, and unable to find his own light, Joshua Moore impressed with his vocal range and characterization. Moore was ably supported by Annis (Fiona Buchanan) and the team of other priests (Isaac Brown, Connor Hawkins & Puawai Herewini)
Shannon Foley delivered a standout portrayal of Pilate, a man weighed down by expectations and decisions. His rendition of Pilate’s Dream was vocally superb, and the audience felt every whip lash on the body of Jesus during Trial by Pilate due to Foley’s emotional input.
In the popular musical styled number of the show, the aptly titled Herod’s Song, Tom Markiewicz as the flamboyant Herod, sashayed and strutted around the stage relishing every moment of Herod’s taunting of Jesus.
The 18 strong ensemble excelled in every number engaged in – appropriately intense, energetic or soft as required – and executing the dance moves with verve and precision. Audience favourites of the group numbers were the Celebratory Hosanna, and of course, Superstar.
Under the expert guidance of Musical Directors Samantha Paterson and Lucas D. Lynch, this production of Jesus Christ Superstar is ultimately about the music, and the real stars here are the exceptional musicians, conducted by Lynch, who make up the orchestra. It is their contribution and talent that makes this production a musical masterpiece.
Lynch and Paterson have produced a crowd pleasing, high quality, energetic, vibrant production of a rock opera classic that was overdue for a revival.
Tickets are on sale now through https://www.lynchandpaterson.com/jesus-christ-superstar-2021