Auditions have been going around the country for the upcoming ITV talent search show Superstar and somewhere out there is a ‘Jesus’, who will lead the new UK arena tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar . News of comedian and musician Tim Minchin’s casting as treacherous disciple Judas Iscariot was recently publicised, and yesterday, further casting news emerged with the announcement that former Spice Girl Mel C and DJ Chris Moyles will join the JCS tour in the respective roles of Mary Magdalene and King Herod.
Melanie Chisholm was one fifth of the ‘90s mega-power that was the Spice Girls, more commonly known then as ‘Sporty Spice’ with her tracksuit bottoms and trademark back-flips, and went on to carve out a somewhat successful career as a solo singer. It was already public knowledge that she is set to join Andrew Lloyd Webber on the Superstar judging panel, but her onstage involvement in the arena tour has come as a surprise to many, especially after the circulation of recent rumours that American pop singer Nicole Scherzinger was to take on the role. In comments to The London Standard, Mel C told of her excitement to be offered the role having always been a fan of the show, saying that: “I just jumped at the chance. It’s a great opportunity. I just want to give it a very strong performance worthy of the stature of the show.”
Chris Moyles has been the host of Radio 1’s Breakfast Show for eight years, and in 2009 he took the step into television with the launch of his own show for Channel 4, Chris Moyles’ Quiz Night, which is currently in its fifth series. Speaking about being cast in his first musical, Moyles said that: “To receive a phone call from Andrew is very cool, but then when he asks you to be in his musical, that’s pretty amazing and there is only one thing to respond with… And that is yes!”
Minchin, Chisholm and Moyles may have been handpicked by Lloyd Webber for the JCS arena tour, but the leading role of Jesus will be cast via the upcoming televised talent search, in the fashion of his previous productions of The Sound of Music (How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria – Connie Fisher), Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (Any Dream Will Do – Lee Mead), Oliver! (I’d Do Anything – Jodie Prenger) and The Wizard of Oz (Over The Rainbow – Danielle Hope). A public vote will determine who wins the coveted role of leading man, with the help of the show’s panel of judges.
Internet whispering began when news of outspoken atheist Minchin’s casting in the religious-themed musical was announced, and with this further casting news, an outpouring of public opinion has spewed forth from social networking sites. Some fans have supported the choice while others have been very vocal with their criticisms – so let me offer my two cents.
Mel C appeared as a pretty random choice to me at first hearing the news, but she was always the best singer in the Spice Girls and she does have experience in the world of musical theatre. She made her West End debut in Blood Brothers as Mrs Johnstone in 2009, her acclaimed portrayal of the role earning her a nomination for both an Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Award. Last year, she also took to the stage of the Dominion Theatre, home to We Will Rock You, for a special Children In Need end-of-show performance of the Queen title track.
Chris Moyles in comparison has no musical theatre experience, but he does possess a decent enough singing voice, and with his easy manner and wit, I can see why Lloyd Webber may have thought him a suitable fit for the role of King Herod.
I still have reservations about the both of them however, Moyles in particular. Mel C admitted herself that her experience as an actor is, “quite limited” and anyone who witnessed the acting skills of all five band members in Spice Girls: The Movie would certainly be entitled to be slightly pessimistic about her casting, while I’ve always found Moyles to be an individual with an over-inflated sense of ego that I don’t think will lend itself to the stage. Most of all though, it’s the fact that the focus seems to have been put on star names rather than star quality, once again.
I’ve been involved in numerous discussions about the issue of ‘stunt casting’ and don’t want to start up another one here, but seeing as the JCS team are looking to discover an unknown star to be their lead, I would have liked to see a similar emphasis of ability over drawing-power being utilised over the rest of the casting process. Looking at it from the mind set of Lloyd Webber however, the JCS tour production will be visiting some of the UK’s biggest venues, all of which they’re aiming to sell-out – the addition of celebrity names will certainly help with that.
Whatever your thoughts on the casting choices so far, I always say that judgement shouldn’t be passed until you’ve actually seen the performance they give. Maybe they won’t live up to your expectations, but on the other hand, maybe they’ll exceed them?
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 17th May 2012