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Jesus Christ Superstar Review | The Lowry | Manchester

Bringing the story of protest and sacrifice to the Lowry theatre, Jesus Christ Superstar (JCS) is back with a fresh revival that turns the story of crucifixion into a sacrilegious reimagining framed around fame, sex and rock and roll.  


By opening the biblical tale up to musical lovers, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber strike all the right notes as they aim for your heartstrings and ear drums. Whether you’re in it for the unorthodox take on the religious tale or you’re a lover of its pop-rock album, the show stands alone as a timely narrative that focuses on celebrity and its consequences.  


Following the final weeks of Jesus’s (Ian McIntosh) life, the show pulls into perspective his disciple, Judas (Shem Omari James), and their tumultuous relationship as he recounts why their friendship soured. In a humanising and grounded reimagining, the tale allows James to shine as a desperate and devoted believer in Jesus’s cause. Opening with the track Heaven On Their Minds, James sympathetically belts out his concerns about Jesus as a messiah and the power of Roman patrols against their lowly status.  


After the success of Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat, Rice and Webber followed up their 1968 hit with another religious reimagining. But JCS’s darker, modern take reflects a more complex look at faith and pulls inspiration from Bob Dylan’s With God On Our Side to offer an intimate and personal profile. The show's simplicity allows the musical performances to soar and the cast's emotional pleas resonate through spotlit solos. As a result, the ensemble cast are given weighty moments to make their mark and infuse the score with different styles. The smooth singing Mary Magdalene (Hannah Richardson) adds a vulnerability and warmth with her soulful rendition of I Don’t Know How to Love Him and McIntosh is given countless high-pitched numbers throughout his impressive performance. 


Originally crafted as a concept album, the score that carries the story forward is a dramatic, nonstop barrage of catchy hits. Alongside its spirited choreography, guitar riffing Jesus and leather jacket-wearing Judas, the show ensures there is a lot of light pageantry to offset its hard-hitting, religious inspiration. As there is no spoken dialogue, director Timothy Sheader opts to deliver a divine spectacle that plays like a concert, placing a live band front and centre amongst the action. Its set places towering black structures that depict Jerusalem as its shadowy backdrop, while intense lighting and projections are used to bring depth to the prop-light stage. 


JCS makes a triumphant transition to the stage with a powerful production that is constantly in flux. The show has an infectious energy that delivers countless compelling and uplifting performances with swift pacing that keeps you bouncing between the serious and self-referential moments. Having first opened in 1971, JCS continues to evolve. Despite being crafted on faith, audiences will be praising the heavens that this fast and thorny tale of faith, betrayal, and redemption continues to be resurrected.  

Tickets are available via the Lowry link

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