Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's iconic rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, has undergone numerous reincarnations since its inception as a concept album, culminating in a contemporary interpretation currently touring the UK under the direction of Timothy Sheader. Drawing inspiration from the acclaimed 2016 open-air production at Regent's Park, this latest version, which evokes the atmosphere of a Sunday worship in a charismatic church, takes the audience on a spiritual journey with its raw energy and gig-like staging. It's a raw, gritty, and transcendent experience.


Set against the backdrop of Jesus' final days before his crucifixion, Jesus Christ Superstar is a sung-through rock opera that tells the tale of faith, betrayal, and redemption. Taking the spotlight is Ian McIntosh as Jesus. His portrayal is nothing short of phenomenal, his edgy and gritty voice lifting each note with a sense of desperation and vulnerability, particularly in the haunting rendition of ‘Gethsemane'. McIntosh navigates the emotional depths of the character with finesse, culminating in a gut-wrenching acceptance of his fate. Opposite him, Shem Omari James delivers a powerhouse performance as Judas, skilfully portraying his agony, struggles, and inner demons. Through his perspective, the story unfolds, with his powerful singing voice and haunting stage presence adding depth to his portrayal, particularly as his treachery is revealed in a manner that seems almost ghostlike.


Hannah Richardson shines as Mary. She avoids the temptation of turning ‘I Don't Know How To Love Him' into a simple power ballad. Instead, she sings with a tender truth that reveals both her character and the mood of the song. Her performance brims with love, longing, and desperation. However, it is the ensemble that deserves recognition for their solid and committed performance, offering dynamic movement, gorgeous harmonies, and characterisation necessary for the production's success. They sing every note with conviction, meaning, and passion as the show progresses from idealistic beginnings to the solemn crucifixion scene.


Drew McOnie's choreography, punctuated by ritualistic-inspired movements, is sharp and precise, while Tom Scutt's set design, filled with cross structures, adds symbolism and depth to the drama. Lee Curran's lighting design complements the rock concert ambiance, with performers often illuminated from above, below, and behind, casting them in semi-silhouette and enveloping the stage in a haze, fostering a tense and dramatic atmosphere throughout most of the show.


Musical director Grant Walsh leads a formidable 10-piece band, their powerhouse performance driving the narrative forward with pulsating energy. From the haunting overture to the climactic finale, the music soars, enveloping the audience in a wave of emotion and euphoria.


Jesus Christ Superstar is a revelation that hits the nail on the head. The show moves at an energetic pace, filling every moment with an iconic selection of rock anthems. In reimagining this classic musical for a contemporary audience, Sheader and his team have created a production that is both timeless and timely, reminding us of the weaknesses of humanity.

Jesus Christ Superstar plays at New Wimbledon Theatre until the 18th of May.


Review: Caleb Lee   Photos: Paul Coltas