Jesus Christ is a pretty big deal around the Christmas season, whether you’re religious or not. He may not have actually been born on 25th December, but the entire holiday is built around the story of his miraculous conception and subsequent birth in a simple stable in the town of Bethlehem – we give gifts in the style of the Three Wise Men who visited the new-born Messiah that night. It’s safe to say you can expect to hear a lot about Jesus around Christmas, but people have recently been talking about him in a way that is completely unrelated to the traditional manner of this time of year. Christmas and Jesus Christ go hand in hand, but Jesus Christ the Superstar?
The popular musical was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, first opening in the West End in 1972. In celebration of its 40th anniversary, JCS was given a contemporary make-over earlier this year – which premiered at the O2 Arena in London on 21st September 2012 – and the new production was sent off on its first ever UK arena tour, visiting venues in the UK and Ireland. It was announced this week that the arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar is set to embark on a second run of performances in 2013, featuring original principal cast members Ben Forster (Jesus), Melanie C (Mary Magdalene), Tim Minchin (Judas Iscariot), Chris Moyles (King Herod) and Alex Hanson.
Forster won the leading role of ‘Jesus’ through the TV casting show Superstar, which followed the thread of Lloyd Webber’s previous shows to find an undiscovered talent to star in an all-new West End musical production. His co-star, Spice Girl Melanie C, was one of the judges on the Superstar judging panel alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber, Dawn French and Jason Donovan. British stage star Hanson had performed extensively in the West End and on Broadway before joining the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. In comparison, comedian/songwriter Minchin, who wrote the music and lyrics for the smash-hit musical Matilda The Musical, made his musical debut in the JCS arena tour, as did former Radio 1 DJ and TV presenter Chris Moyles. The cast were generally well-received by tour audiences, with Minchin and Forster in particular, being highly praised for their performances. Laurence Connor’s direction of the show was also a ‘marmite’ effect, with the traditional telling of the events in the week leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus reworked and moved to the modern day setting of the July 2012 London riots. It still retained all original musical numbers however, including ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’, ‘Superstar’ and the classic hit ‘Gethsemane’, which may well be one of, if not the, greatest songs in the history of musical theatre. A live performance of the production was released on DVD in November 2012.
Lloyd Webber, speaking about the rock opera, said: “Last year’s tour was the first-ever UK arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar and it surpassed our expectations. The response from audiences across the UK and Ireland was overwhelming and the show was everything I had hoped for. It’s great news that fans will have a final chance to see the show with the original arena tour cast of Tim Minchin, Mel C, Chris Moyles, Ben Forster and Alex Hanson.”
The second leg of the Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour kicks off in Nottingham on 10th March 2013. From there, it will go on to visit London’s O2 Arena (13th March), Liverpool Echo Arena (15th March), Cardiff Motorpoint (17th March), Manchester Arena (24th March) and the Newcastle Metro Arena (26th March), before playing its final performance date at the Birmingham NIA on 28th March 2013. Tickets go on sale this Friday (7th December) at 9.00am.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 6th December 2012