Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar has been through many productions. From the original concept album in the 70s, to the multiple West End and Broadway productions. It is Splinters’ production though, that breathes new life into the piece.
As the lights dim, the audience are shown two video clips: First, from the West End cast of Hamilton wishing the company good luck. Second, from Andrew Lloyd Webber himself sending well wishes and stating: “it needs people like you to bring a bit of magic to the old boy.” And Splinters certainly do that.
The musical is traditionally set in biblical times. However, under Ian Walker’s direction, this production begins with a modern-day riot, followed by copious leather jackets, heavy eyeliner and a stadium-style rock concert.
Of course, the main challenge that comes with any production of this musical is the male cast. Jesus Christ Superstar is probably the most demanding musical in terms of sourcing stellar male cast members – a tricky enough task in amateur dramatics at least. But this proved to be no issue for Splinters.
Ross Bannister (Judas) delivers an incredibly emotional performance throughout. From the start with his first number, ‘Heaven On Their Mind’, his vocal prowess is exceptional.
Jesus (Dan Romano) is equally phenomenal. His vocals are consistently incredible, but ‘Gethsemane’ provides him the chance to shine. His performance in ‘39 lashes’ and ‘Crucifixion’ confirms that Romano is an immensely talented performer who should seriously consider a career in the musical theatre business.
It wasn’t just the two leads though that make this production so wonderful. Special mention should be given to Peter (Ben Bason), Simon (John Crowther) and Pilate (Mark Holmes), who give stunning vocal performances as part of the supporting cast.
When Jessica Rose Curr first steps on stage as Mary, it is unclear how she will hold her own opposite the predominantly male cast, however, her solo number: ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ solidifies her place as a leading lady.
Some elements of the direction could be disputed at times, such as the setting of musical numbers in a bar or having Pilate lift weights as if at the gym. Likewise, Judas’s Death could have been more convincing if it took place on stage, opposed to a video.
Nonetheless, this modern take on the production is a triumph and Romano and Bannister are worthy of a West End Stage.