By Hamish Stening
Many people normally cannot stand Andrew Lloyd Webber shows but they make an exception for Jesus Christ Superstar. It has big moments and a soundtrack definitely worth listening to, and even if it still isn't your cup of tea, there is no denying its importance in the history of music theatre.
Packemin Production's version of the show is full of great moments and does the famous rock score more than justice. Jesus' (spoiler) crucifixion is a technical marvel and is at the centre of a beautifully composed stage for the climax of the show. Meanwhile, Toby Francis sings his heart out. His tone, stamina and range is as incredible as it is impossible. Brittany Shipway's voice is a similar stand out, but in a very different way. Her voice is tender and sweet and a very necessary variation from the near-constant almost screaming Lloyd Webber's score demands. In fact, many of the show's problems boil down to the score. It asks too much of (particularly male) singers and was not flattering for many in the cast. Worse still, its lyrics are cringeworthy, and it is often inappropriately upbeat and almost "jukeboxy".
It is hard to stay engaged with the text when it is all shouted, the rhyming is painful, and the feel of the music and the scene are jarringly dissonant. This is particularly unfortunate for a rock opera, especially one that does not have particularly strong plot beats, in which all words, and hence plot, are sung. Whilst this is of course a critique ultimately of the show itself, in this particular production, there are issues with the balance between singers and orchestra, as well as the compression and EQing of the vocals, that heighten the flaws in this rock classic. With that said, Music Director Peter Hayward, as always, runs his orchestra with expert precision. Special mention must also go to Stage Manager Jordan Vassallo because the show is a technical achievement and runs without any noticeable complication, a true testament to the efficiency and dedication of the backstage team.
Packemin Production's Jesus Christ Superstar is a show full of great moments. It suffers from its plot being uninteresting and hard to follow, but Toby Francis's voice makes up for any grievances one could have with the show and it is definitely one to watch.
Photos Supplied By Packemin Productions
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.