REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar, The Customs House, South Shields

INCREDIBLE SHOW ... South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society is staging Jesus Christ Superstar. Charlotte Reay as Mary Magdalene and Ian Bianchi as Jesus. Inset, Brian Jordan as Judas.
INCREDIBLE SHOW ... South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society is staging Jesus Christ Superstar. Charlotte Reay as Mary Magdalene and Ian Bianchi as Jesus. Inset, Brian Jordan as Judas.
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IT’S hard to believe that this is an amateur production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The cast, costumes, staging, and everything about this show oozes utter professionalism.

South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society is staging Jesus Christ Superstar. Brian Jordan as Judas.

South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society is staging Jesus Christ Superstar. Brian Jordan as Judas.

Staged by the South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society, it absolutely blew me away.

The rock opera, penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, tells the story of the last days of Christ’s life entirely through song.

From the moment you walk into the theatre, you can tell it’s going to be a great show just by looking at the elaborate set.

And as the live band starts playing and a cross-shaped lighting rig begins scanning the room, excitement sets in – and it doesn’t go away.

Ian Bianchi and Brian Jordan take on the lead roles of Jesus and Judas, respectively, and both are sensational.

The roles are vocally demanding ones, but both actors perform with passion, gusto, and sheer determination. They are fantastic.

I saw Jordan as Jesus in a previous production and he is just as brilliant in the villainous role.

The Priests of Judaea (Bob Stott/Paul Threadgall/Gerry Troughton/Allan Howe) also make a big impression. They are suitably eerie, and the choice to dress them as clowns is a great one.

But for me, it’s Charlotte Reay who steals the show as Mary. She has an absolutely incredible stage presence and voice. She looks gorgeous in her red dress and her renditions of songs including I Don’t Know How To Love Him and Could We Start Again Please are enough to give you goosebumps.

The main cast is backed up by a talented ensemble who fantastically portray Jesus’ followers, lepers, guards, and any other role that is asked of them.

The live band is also impressive and really adds to the overall atmosphere of the show. Famous songs like What’s The Buzz, Everything’s Alright, Hosanna and Superstar went down a storm.

The staging, set over two levels, is clever and the cast make great use of the space.

Costumes are also a fantastic element of the show. Whether they dress a poor person, the Priests, Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Gary Deans) – who was powerful in the role – or the show girls of the make-shift casino, they fit the character perfectly, and the symbolic red gloves worn by those who betray Jesus are an elegant touch.

Herod’s Song was a brilliant moment in the show. Herod (Phil Dixon) was given a sort of ragtime makeover, and backed up by a troupe of dancers, the performance injected a comedic value into the show.

The musical builds to an epic and emotional ending that will move people to tears, and the crucifixion itself looks great and is a clever use of the set.

It was a little awkward at the end. As Jesus hung there and the audience broke into applause, they realised after a while that the rest of the cast weren’t going to appear to take a bow, and we had to hurry out so that the poor actor dangling from the cross could get down and give his arms a rest.

It was a shame that the rest of the cast didn’t get to share in the applause, because they utterly deserved it.

This production is amateur only in name, and it’s certainly one worthy of a professional stage.

I can’t praise it enough. It was epic, emotional and exciting, and definitely worth a trip to the Customs House this week.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs until Saturday. To book tickets, go to the Customs House website.

Twitter: @ShieldsGazVicki