Searching for a Jesus to play the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar could have been another jewel in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s already sparkling crown but it just doesn’t seem to have gelled.
Maybe it is the way the production has been put together from the very first auditions right through to this week’s live shows. “Attention to detail is the difference between success and failure” is a saying that could well define this show. Although not a failure, it hasn’t reached the heights that it probably should have done. No doubt Tim Rice made a wise decision in not coming on board with the show.
I for one don’t actually like this type of casting for a role and for it to be for the iconic role of Jesus made me dislike it even more. I have however tried to embrace the competition.
During the past week the live shows have seen cracks not only in the presenting, the technical aspects of the show and finally in Lloyd Webber’s temperament. As much as I respect Lloyd Webber for what he has done for musical theatre over many years, I feel that he has taken this type of show as far as he can. As much as the format of the show is questionable, I don’t think the judges have inspired people to watch it. Cringe-ability would be a new word for some of Lloyd Webber’s neologistic phrases, such as ‘arenability’. He has also come out with critique and statements that have caused quite a stir, not least his comment in the semi-final that “we’ve got so few leading men in theatre”, which may be correct in the broad sense of theatre, but probably won’t go down too well with some of the leading men in the West End.
To able to effectively and professionally present or judge this type of show you have to have certain qualities and in as much as these are all likeable stars they haven’t quite gelled.
It is disappointing to think that out of several hundred that have auditioned, contestants in the final ten and even in the final five have had ‘pitchy’ moments. I am not a performer and maybe it is different being in a live show but I would have hoped for a higher and more consistent quality among all. However, the very best of leading men are most likely already starring in a show, on tour or having a holiday. I don’t wish to detract from the guys that have taken part as they have been a first class group and most will I am sure have roles heading their way very soon.
Many people have criticised Lloyd Webber for not using songs from Jesus Christ Superstar or even from musical theatre throughout the live shows. He has however looked for the emotions within the songs to be portrayed by the performers.
Last night’s semi-final saw David Hunter in the sing-off with Rory Taylor. David was probably the best actor in the top ten and during his sing-off with Rory he gave a performance of an actor and a singer, while Rory sang like a recording artist and went through. No disrespect meant to Rory as he has a fabulous voice. Along with Ben Forster he has been the most consistent with the high quality of his singing.
For David the future looks very promising as throughout the live shows he has displayed the qualities of a superb actor and singer, and with high praise from Lloyd Webber who said “if I were to cast Sunset Boulvard tomorrow you would get the lead role”.
While Lloyd Webber may have looked for the emotions from within the song choices, I haven’t seen much evidence of ‘acting’. Clearly the vocal aspect is more important to him in casting this role – in most cases, anyway.
My verdict for tonight’s final:
Favourite: Ben Forster
Ben has performed consistently throughout the live shows with virtually all positive comments and the public have shown faith in him. I will be very surprised if Ben doesn’t win this.
I like Rory’s voice the best. He will be a successful recording artist but I am not sure this role is for him. I have been surprised to see Rory in the bottom two.
Roger would be the outsider for me. He has at times been criticised by the judges and also been in the bottom two. To his credit he has fought through and will no doubt have a significant theatrical role very soon as he is a solid performer. He would also have Dawn French supporting him at every performance.
Whoever wins tonight will deserve the success as they will have put in a huge amount of commitment for this show over several months, and of course will have the public vote of confidence.
No doubt that those who haven’t watch the Superstar shows will be pleased the hype is over with, and doubtless there are those that have watched it are also quite pleased. But, it has been entertaining!
By Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1
Celebrating 40 years since it first opened in London’s West End, the Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Tour kicks off this September.
The new production of Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s musical goes on tour in September, featuring Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot, Chris Moyles as King Herod and former Spice Girl – and Superstar judge – Melanie C as Mary Magdalene.
Tickets will be posted out one week before the event.
The O2 Arena – Saturday 22nd September, 2012 7.30pm
Glasgow SECC – Tuesday Tuesday 25th September, 2012 7.30pm
Newcastle at Metro Radio Arena – Friday 28th September, 2012 8.00pm
Manchester Arena – Sunday 30th September, 2012 7.30pm
Cardiff Motorpoint Arena – Tuesday 2nd October 7.30pm
Birmingham at National Indoor Arena – Thursday 4th October 2012 7.30pm
Liverpool Echo Arena – Tuesday 16th October, 2012 8.00pm
Nottingham at Capital FM Arena – Friday 19th October, 2012 7.30pm
Sheffield Motorpoint Arena – Sunday 21st October, 2012 7.30pm
Wednesday 25th July 2012