Jesus Christ Superstar at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York: A Mumbler review
Guest Review by Local Mumbler, Geoff
York Mumbler Geoff and his 16-year-old son went to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York. Find out what they thought of the show in their superb review.
On a typically dank and dreary November evening, the opening night of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre York shone a bright spotlight on the north of our historic city. With a hippy 70s vibe; thanks to bright primary-coloured dresses, CND medallions and John Lennon specs, and its funk- and psych-inflected riffs – the story of Jesus’ final days demands to be felt and experienced, not just seen and heard.
York Musical Theatre Company delivers an amazing show
Photo credit: PINK LILY PHOTOGRAPHY
A young Tim Rice, and Andrew Lloyd Webber first delivered the Billboard album chart success in mid-1970, finally setting Broadway alight a year later. Opening in London in 1972, JCS went on to become the longest-running musical in the West End.
Roll forward to 2019, and the York Musical Theatre Company directed by Paul Laidlaw drop us into the ‘peace and love’ decade. The Converse wearing Jesus (John Whitney) and Judas’ (Chris Mooney) casual cargo pants are suitably understated – the real stars are the ensemble – straight from the fields of Woodstock.
The elegant creative decisions need to be applauded, with fantastic hair and makeup work throughout. The stage itself also plays a leading role, with functional scaffolding providing a bleak centrepiece and giving the performance both depth and height. With deft lighting changes and the addition of red glowing lanterns, we are quickly transported into the depravity of The Temple which is only matched by Jesus’ subsequent wrath.
The hard-working cast and band put their all into the foot-tapping numbers; from the powerful ensemble songs Strange Thing Mystifying and Hosanna, to the soaring vocals of Blood Money. Chris Mooney’s Judas that really shines throughout whilst leaving room for Mary Magdelene’s (Marlena Kellie) tenderness and edge.
Not always an easy watch, and unapologetically so, this is a show that has impact and relevance in today’s world.
Great for teenagers or as a date night
I went with my 16-year-old and I’d recommend it for parents with teens, or as a date night theatre trip. Given the content and the presentation, it’s perhaps best avoided by younger audiences. There are probably safer ways to introduce the Easter story to your little ones!
The Jo-Ro theatre is always a pleasure to visit, with free parking a short walk away [take a torch], lovely welcoming staff, and comfortable seating. The rake is also pleasing throughout the stalls and balcony, so a good view can be had from all seats.
Useful links & information
Jesus Christ Superstar plays until Saturday 30 November and tickets range from £13 to £18.