Jesus Christ Superstar (The Arts Centre Gold Coast)
The Arts Centre Gold Coast
June 20 – 29
Since it first opened on Broadway in 1971, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been interpreted in many ways, including in a number of touring and local productions. In The Arts Centre Gold Coast show, the classic rock opera gets a makeover; the setting is a celebrity obsessed Jerusalem Shore world of hyper reality. In the neon-ness of leather and sequined debauchery, the buzz around the titular Jesus is one of a celebrity, billed to make appearance at the Cobra nightclub. This bold and grand setting is realised though the creativity of optikal bloc, whose innovative work brings the seedy and corrupt world to explosive life with an aesthetic akin to the Verona Beach of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 movie “Romeo + Juliet”. Indeed, the seven meter high LED panels that dominate the backdrop, not only bring the work to explosive life, but enable emphasis on the show’s rock roots though the incorporation of religious quotes from modern music royalty as part of the projections.
The combination of pulsating music, video backing and energetic lighting take the audience to a place that is almost overwhelming, especially given the size of the ensemble (at times with over 30 crowding the small stage). The numerous dancers are a distraction and although the choreography is good, timing is not always synchronised, which only serves to highlight a mismatch of professional and amateur performers. And the final number of Barberella-esque pink and gold costumes, is just a jazz hand away from being more cheesy than celebratory.
The cast matches the vibrancy of the show’s aesthetic in terms of dynamism; however, the star of this show is undoubtedly Dash Kruck, who sounds utterly spectacular as Judas. From his first scene, he takes a commanding place on stage and holds it throughout, playing Judas with righteous indignation and fiery anger in his dissatisfaction with the directions in which Jesus is steering his disciples. As leather-clad, rock god, Jesus, Stevie Mac is also impressive in his emotion and vocal intensity, particularly in the powerful anthem “Gethsemane”.
The musical based on the Gospel’s accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life, from the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem through to the crucifixion. It is a loose and highly dramatised account, focusing on political and interpersonal struggles not included in the Bible narratives. And this reimagining is particularly transformative, casting both disciples and Pilot as females. And in the case of Pilot, it is a choice that works, for indeed, in Pilot (Angela Toohey), we trust, full of intensity and fury as she is, in both word and song.
This modernised production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” is one of much passion and many strengths; it not only alters the hippy aspects of the classic production in favour of contemporary styling, but it provides the chance to witness a performer deliver an excellent enactment. And, in live theatre, there is nothing more exciting than that.