Joseph Rowntree Theatre – until Sat 30 November 2019
Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
3 1/2 ***
Jesus Christ Superstar was one of Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice’s first musicals, written in 1970. York Musical Theatre Company, one of York’s many talented am-dram groups, have taken this famous musical on and is currently playing at the cosy Joseph Rowntree Theatre. This is my first outing there, and it is quite an intimate theatre with comfortable seating, I was pleasantly surprised.
The rock opera is a modern, well a 1970’s, take of the last few weeks of Jesus’s life, from Judas’s betrayal to his final crucifixion. It’s a story of joy, paranoia and betrayal. Jesus (John Whitney) is attracting a lot of attention and the people idolise him, but one of his follows Judas (Chris Mooney) is worried about what will happen to them all when the mighty Roman Empire hear about the Jesus effect. He also seems to loathe Mary Magdalene (Marlena Kellie), jealous of the bond she shares with Jesus.
The cast consists of a total of 26 actors, 14 of which are ensemble. Most of the cast are dressed as hippies, depicting the era it is set in, the main exception being Judas, whose dress is almost like a fighter, combat trousers, boots and a bomber jacket. The whole cast seemed to enjoy performing on stage with its catchy tunes and Kellie had a lovely voice, portraying Mary Magdalene’s vulnerable side.
The stand out star of the show was definitely Mooney as Judas. His vocals stood out, the power and emotion in his voice was palatable, he captured Judas’s mood perfectly. I did find there to be a slight issue here, when the band were playing the powerful numbers, all of which seemed to be Judas’s songs, we were hit with a wall of sound, they were just a bit too loud, as good as Moody was, at times it was a struggle to hear him properly. Whitney in the title role of Jesus, also produced a solid performance, and was a suitable counterpart to Judas.
The stage was pretty bare, just scaffolding and ropes being used to full effect throughout the performance, with the crucifix appearing for the final scene. The band were very enthusiastic and on the whole very good, the volume just needed pegging back for a couple of numbers.
It never ceases to amaze me how York is such a wonderful city for amateur dramatics and it is important that they are well supported, in order for this to continue.