Rehearsed and put on for the first time in just 24 hours, my expectations for Jesus Christ Superstar were stuck somewhere between being in awe of the feat that SUSU’s Showstoppers attempt every year in the name of charity and what I would customarily expect as a paying audience member, particularly one on a student budget.
The show was predominantly brilliantly well staged and performed. In particular, the scene of the thirty-nine lashes was imaginatively pulled off although I did have some empathy for the patron that I overheard commenting ‘I’m sure they could’ve got him down in 10′ towards the end of the count. Strong performances were given by Sophie Owen, Sarah Moir and Alex “Teddy” Clements. Sam Otto’s Jesus was generally very well acted and sung although in parts his lack and subsequent reading of lyrics was slightly awkward for me as an audience member.
Naturally there were line slips but the show must go on and go on it did, highlighting Showstoppers’ professionalism.Tim Rice’s frankly criminal use of rhyme did, of course, allow for a reasonable stab in the dark on many occasions but the only complete loss of words was pulled off stylishly by Ben George, occurring during what was already a fairly comic moment.
From a technical angle, the show was a success with great costumes, good lighting and effective staging which afforded the cast a good range of entrances and exits. The sound of microphone static was sadly present often enough that I overheard several audience groups remarking upon it and this is something which could certainly be improved.
Although Sam Dockree’s musical direction (and for that matter, saxophone playing) was excellent, the music was definitely too loud and led to many lyrics being lost. This was particularly true of Chinonye Iroegbulem’s powerhouse role of Judas as the more subtle elements of her portrayal were frequently drowned out by the band. Many of the ensemble also fell foul of this over the course of the show. Some members of the cast attempted to push past the boundaries of their vocal range which drew laughter from last night’s audience but would have disappointed in a professional production.
Although the show was not without its weaknesses it is important to stress the time constraints under which it was put together. For 24 hours of work put on by what must have been a physically and mentally exhaused cast and production team, I would have liked to have seen another group do any better.