Jesus Christ Superstar, O2 Arena, London
Chris Moyles, stage superstar DJ, wakes up to a bright new career
Saturday 22 September 2012
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's tremendous rock oratorio covering the Passion and Crucifixion was a best-selling album and, in America, an arena concert phenomenon before it arrived first on Broadway in 1971 and, one year later, in the West End, where it ran for eight years, the longest running musical ever – at that time.
Now it is ear-splittingly restored to its heavy metal rock origins in a thrilling production by Laurence Connor that uses the insignia of Occupy London, newsreel and video reportage and a game show voting process at the court of King Herod – is he a Lord or a Fraud, ladies and gentlemen, text this number – to renew the energy of political insurgency and repression.
And while one may have had doubts about the wisdom of finding a new Jesus through a television talent contest with an audience decision for the unknown Geordie, Ben Forster, that process in itself reflects the showbiz fickle character of the show; and Ben Forster proves a wonderful discovery, passing the sternest test, the great arioso soliloquy in Gethsemane, with flying, high-rock tenor colours.
The vulgarity of Herod the game show host is done just as surprisingly well by disc jockey Chris Moyles in a crushed velvet red suit, leering into the onstage cameras while the soft-shoe shuffle erupts around him, and then film of him meeting his own challenge: "Prove to me that you're no fool, walk across my swimming pool."
Mel C, too, is canny casting as a Rasta-haired, tattooed and street-wise Mary Magdalene, best friend and street urchin whore, discharging both her sweetly melancholic numbers with real expertise.
Best of all is Aussie Matilda composer and performer Tim Minchin as Judas, moving from moral prurience to disaffected disciple and traitor with snarling, screeching cynicism. There is equally expert input from Alex Hanson as a dithering, cowardly, brilliantly sung Pontius Pilate and Pete Gallagher as an amazingly bass-voiced high priest Caiphas in a grey suit.
There's one more surprise: that the rock arena concert can be very fine theatre, too.
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Katie Hopkins has just written a piece so hateful that it might give Hitler pause – why was it published?
- 4 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 5 Cancel Sky at your peril: man spends 96 minutes in chat but fails to get rid of service
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers: Age of Ultron: 'After credits' scene leaks online
Kevin Spacey's successor at The Old Vic promises a more low-key approach
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate