Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ Superstar


Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar

Gateway Theatre Productions

The Events Centre, Caloundra

October 27 – November 5 2016


Reviewed by Daisy Cox & James Reid




On the 27th of October we headed to the Caloundra event centre for Gateways production of Jesus Christ Superstar. With the three leading cast members having no prior acting experience and the director with no directing experience we were a little skeptical.

The stage was set with a more modern look with scaffolding and steps. As the opening song started and the cast took to the stage it was clear it was a more modern take to the show, with its strong lighting design and modern costumes.

The show opened with Patrick Goodman on guitar playing the overture, Patrick held two roles juggling lead guitar and the important role of Peter, apostle to Jesus Christ.

First time director Thomas Armstrong-Robley, direction was clear, a modern take on a older show, mobile phones were used on stage as a nod to a modern take, having a live band on stage really added to the journey the characters on.

Armstrongs-Robleys take on King Herod’s scene was really captivating and something that hasn’t been seen before, it was truely a highlight.

Frank Lakoudis as Judas was a fantastic choice for the iconic role his strong singing ability and his fresh take on the character was a treat, the journey Lakoudis took the audience on was a roller coaster, you really felt the struggle and dilemma Judas felt.

Altiyan Childs as Jesus Christ displayed his fantastic singing range and different take on the role of such a historical and important figure, a highlight was when Childs sang possibly the most important song in the musical, Gethsemane, and Childs’ performance really delivered, you could feel the pain Jesus was experiencing with accepting Gods decision.

Emma Beau as Mary was a beautiful soft representation of the character, her country toned voice was a delight especially during the song I Don’t Know How to Love Him” when Mary declares her love for Jesus Christ.

The cast supported the leads extremely well, the choreography   In act one seemed cluttered on the stage but by act two it seemed simpler and easier to watch.

As with most opening nights there was some technical problems which I’m sure will get sorted as the shows progresses, Goodmans fantastic guitar playing was a struggle to hear for most of the show, during the song Could We Start Again Please? when Goodman played an acoustic guitar on stage could we hear him well.

Overall it was a fantastic night out and it was great to see the musical theatre scene coming to Caloundra.

– Daisy Cox






What a performance!!

Opening night of the inaugural production for Gateway Theatre Productions saw an excellent combination of professional and amateur performers sharing the stage for the classic musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

The venue was The Events Centre in Caloundra. A classy, large auditorium that was not quite full, but wasn’t too far from it. The music was tight. The musical director has put together an excellent group of musicians who obviously love their job and they are good at it.

Vocally, there was the odd missed note here or there, but mostly it was a blend of hard, raunchy vocals and smooth harmonies. I knew most of the songs, of course, but everyone put their own slant on it, especially the solos & duos. It’s as if the musical director had said –  “This is what everyone knows – now make it your own”. And they did. The highlight of the night for most of the audience was Jesus’ rendition of Gethsemane, which was spellbinding.

The choreography was impressive, the acting was impressive, there were no weaknesses in any cast, in any musician, in lighting, the sound wasn’t ear splitting, the mix of voice over music was spot on, it was nothing like I expected and I loved it. As someone who has never seen a production of the show before, I was blown away. I cannot think of one thing to fault.

The stage, although simple in design was versatile enough that with a few props here and there could transform into anything the story needed. The production team led by young director –Thomas Armstrong-Robley, musical director – Lucas D. Lynch, choreographer – Maureen Bowra have put together an incredible spectacle of music, style, passion, darkness and, yes, even a bit of sex.

Obviously, there were some well-known, and popular big names in the cast but the entire ensemble can be proud of what they are bringing to the Sunshine Coast. This production could be summed up in one word – “Powerful”.

– James Reid





Jesus Christ Superstar: Australian Arena Tour


Jesus Christ Superstar: Australian Arena

Brisbane Entertainment Centre

11th, 12th & 18th June 2013

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward






JCS-minchin-300x0Let me just get this out of the way. I adore Tim Minchin and I don’t think I’m the only one. The legion of followers on Twitter, and the fans overheard at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Tuesday night planning their post-show stage door strategy for meeting the stars (a decent way to wait for the carpark to clear, let’s face it, although personally, prefer a glass of something at the bar these days, having spent too many hours at stage doors in another life), as well as the standing ovation for this Judas Iscariot, indicate that the infamous atheist Minchin is the real superstar of this massive
new production. Judas has always been the plum role, in what was the first officially recognised “rock musical”, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice after the success of their high school musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I grew up with these shows playing at maximum volume (on scratchy albums, kids. RECORDS. PLAYED ON A RECORD PLAYER).


Through the eyes of Judas, we see the events of the last days and nights of Jesus Christ, including the crucifixion (and not, to the slight distress of staunch Christians over the years, the resurrection). If we don’t feel the anguish and self-loathing of Judas there’s something very wrong with the production. In this role, Minchin gives generously so much anguish, self-loathing, confusion and disbelief that there are a couple of moments to bring us to tears if we are so inclined. His Heaven On Their Minds sets up for a faultless performance; it’s a gutsy and unforgiving opening, and Damned For All Time/Blood Money and Judas’s Death set Minchin well apart from the other strong leads, including my (other) favourite, Jon Stevens, whose performance is exceptional despite some unusual directorial decisions having been applied to his character, Pontius Pilate. He nevertheless commands the stage at every moment. These two performers are in a calibre of their own and will have you completely captivated.


I saw Stevens as a bare-chested, black-leather-pants-clad certified Rock God Judas in the last arena tour (in the round) in 1992, with John Farnham as Jesus, Kate Ceberano as Mary Magdalene, Angry Anderson as Herod, and John Waters as Pilate. Incidentally, going by the evidence kindly provided by the form-fitting black Nike gear he wears so well, Stevens is in better shape now than he was then. Just saying. By leaping into both demanding roles, Stevens has well and truly proven his versatility and his prowess as a stage performer (and look, in 1992 certified Rock Gods making their musical theatre debut could get away with taking a breath in the middle of a phrase), not to mention his commitment to basic stagecraft, which is not to be undervalued even (or especially) at this level.



Ben Forster, who won the title role in the British Superstar comp, can’t help but head into overly dramatic territory, where his vocals suffer slightly when there’s no need to push it; clearly, he has the necessary vocal range and depth of emotion. Despite his obvious talent and earnest efforts, he seemed slightly fatigued and his Gethsemane failed to move me, with his best moments happening in tandem with Minchin. The kiss from Judas, and the embrace that follows it, is heart wrenching. I defy you to sit unmoved during this small, spectacular moment. The devil is in the detail.



Andrew O’Keefe as Herod in a flashy red velvet suit, manages to pull off an appropriately cheesy reality television game show, complete with faux audience participation, our host pandering to the cameras, and a bevvy of beautiful Deal or No Deal (well, they’re really “Lord or Fraud”) girls in gold. The girls return later, as SMASH style angels, in frilly knickers and corsets, and help leather-bound Minchin to make Superstar the showstopper. In one foul swoop, there it is, exactly what we came to experience; the Superstar Arena Spectacular!


Mel C – who is being raved about by other critics so, you know, don’t take my word for it – forgot, I think, that she was here to play the role of Mary Magdalene and after her perfectly measured part in Everything’s Alright, insisted on reverting to Sporty Spice style, shouting more than singing I Don’t Know How to Love Him. (I’m sorry, but you got nothin’ on our Naomi Price, girlfriend!), and Could We Start Again Please (poor, poor Peter – the talented Tom Parsons – didn’t stand a chance!). Suffice to say, after her first number, Mel C failed to impress me. AND I WAS READY TO BE IMPRESSED. After all, each and every lead role in this show is so, so, SO covetable, and we (quite rightly) expect the best. It’s not just a matter of getting up and making your mark as one of these characters. We need to see more than the star on stage. To be cast in any iconic show demands a step away from the ego and a back to basics approach in terms of discovering and developing characters and relationships. It’s the difference between recognising an actor like Robert De Niro or Daniel Day Lewis in a role, and not seeing anyone other than Keanu Reeves in a role. JUST SAYING.

gal-land-Renee-20Melides_A0C0739-620x414 Director, Lawrence Connor, has drawn on the global Occupy Movement to perfectly recontextualise this adaptation, dragging even the most reluctant of the original 1970s fan base into Big Brother’s digital age, with news updates, headlines and tweets (and hashtags, including #RomeLies and #FollowTheTwelve – of course I loved it!) embedded on the massive screen before us in between live-streamed footage of the performers and the changes in surroundings. It’s more like a rock concert than a musical, with camera operators sharing the steps and stage space with the cast and band, and a lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe worthy of a Freddie Mercury Resurrection Tour.


Speaking of the band, I don’t often list an entire collective but these guys, placed in full view on the scaffold at either side of the steps/stage space are outstanding, and if you faked a standing ovation in order to surreptitiously take your leave and get out to your car during the play-out music SHAME ON YOU. You missed the final fantastic notes from Louise Hunt (Musical Director/keys), Peter Adams (keys), Lewis Osborne (guitar), Frissi Karlson (guitar), Phil Mulford (bass), Andy McGlasson (drums), John Clark (percussion), Nicole Dixon (French horn), Kate Robertson (sax & wind instruments), and Greg Spence (trumpet). Regardless of your final thoughts about this production, you can’t fail to appreciate the expertise of the musos involved. The same applies to th ensemble, which gives this story much of its energy, excitement and contemporary urban grunge. Their vocals are superb.   GHMinchineJCSSAW-20130608151017170064-620x349


There are some clunky scene transitions – there usually are in Superstar and the set is perhaps less visually arresting than expected, although Minchin’s last entrance from – literally – “the gods” up above us, and the lighting bars used for the cross worked well. I’m surprised I didn’t get shivers upon hearing the opening strains of the guitar (it didn’t seem LOUD enough!), or in the final moments (it didn’t seem to MATTER enough!), and I’m disappointed that I didn’t feel completely awestruck by this…impressive production.


I love Jesus Christ Superstar – our Sunshine Coast production, directed by Cirque’s Mark Bromilow and staged in a warehouse in Kawana in 1999, retains the record for the largest audience numbers in a season on the Sunshine Coast – and the majority will love this Arena Spectacular, which is everything its tag suggests it should be. But there’s a big-budget-big-ego issue overshadowing a few of the elements, which is keeping me from really LOVING it. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy seeing Tim Minchin the show again!


I was impressed enough to get online and book two more tickets for the third and final Brisbane performance – for my husband, the producer of that unforgettable local production in ‘99, and for my dad, singing at the top of his voice and playing the original scratchy cast recording since 1970.

Jesus Christ Superstar should be experienced at least once in a lifetime and the Arena Spectacular is a terrific, high-voltage version so book your last-minute tickets and chalk it up!




The Second Coming

That’s right. Jesus Christ Superstar is returning. To QPAC. In February. The extended promo (below) is super cool and certainly has the desired effect – it makes even me want to see it again – it is just so super COOL, you know? Who wouldn’t want to see it (whether for the first or second time and indulge – again – in the discussions about it afterwards)?!

If I can be sure that Harvest Rain will rock it up another notch or two, rough up (do I mean rough up? Not really, I mean…complicate) a few of the relationships, sort out Judas’s death and smooth over the story-within-a-story glitch, I might just do that. I love seeing STUFF at all stages of the creative process and this stuff is no different. While there is a place for (and a huge responsibility in) honouring original productions and giving the people more of what they love (hmmm…I’m lookin’  at YOU West Side Story), Harvest Rain are well aware that there is a large percentage of the population who want to see them continue to raise the bar as a leader in Brisbane’s musical theatre scene and I feel sure, with their triple-threat training and bringing-in-the-big-guns roll call (no pun intended so close your mouths, fans of Mr Strike’s big guns) they are up to the challenge!

You’d better book early, folks, for this season (3rd-13th February 2011); the groupies and skeptics alike will be back to see this one!


Harvest Rain’s Superstar

Harvest Rain Theatre Company does Jesus Christ Superstar…hardly surprising, is it?! A company known and largely respected for its Christian ethos and fun-for-all-the-family shows. What was surprising about this latest production was that it was excellent! Let me explain that tone of text. You know I’ve been skeptical about some aspects of this company in the past, resulting in some very amusing numbers games on my Facebook Friends List (not to mention the comments on my wall)! However, credit where credit is due…though I had some issues with certain aspects of the show, it certainly exceeded my expectations. Here’s why:

Luke Kennedy, the company’s star vehicle (having taken a break from a two year stint with The Ten Tenors), was never far from sight in the months leading up to opening night. In online media and in the city of Brisbane, he and that crown of thorns pervaded the place like…well, just like I imagine Christ Himself would like to promote his own arrival amongst us, if only he had the same marketing team and chose to rock up at QPAC.

Luke is, indeed, a superstar. Just check this out.



This song, this role, demands the singer’s soul and Luke shared his – all of it. His interpretation of Jesus – the man – was multi-faceted and his entire sung performance was heartfelt, his vocal work extraordinary and the relationship between he and Mary Magdalene particularly (in contrast to her DIVAS alter-ego, a very different and genuine, gentle Naomi Price), demonstrated a self-awareness that certainly – strangely – doesn’t come through in the filmclip for Instant Karma, the first single from his debut album, Overexposed, though it may well have been seen in previous character roles…I know not for I cannot claim to have seen them all.



Unfortunately, because we had double-booked our post show drinks, we were obliged to take off immediately after the show, to Drift, where the Moet and Ms Rachel Dunham and Matt Fennell were, rather than wait with the masses of family members, friends and fans at stage door and so, subsequently missed catching up with Luke and Co. and picking up a copy of his CD, of which I am keen to hear more! Incidentally, I felt like an idiot saying hello to Nathan Foley, as we raced past, having not seen his show at all (Mama Mia) the same night. I assume he assumed we had done.

Tod Strike’s Judas was intense and melancholic and I waited for him to find that other, other aspect of the role; that strange, distorted, devastating pride and absolute, unfailing love for the man, which serves to raise the stakes into a whole other realm when coupled with the obvious choices of envy, resentment and self-pity/loathing/insert preferred adjective here…if it is allowed to surface. I wanted him to lose the clever vocal tricks and deliver some gut-wrenching feeling. After Heaven on Their Minds I’m not sure I saw enough raw emotion and much later, I was unconvinced that his suicide had actually occurred at all! This was more an oversight (or undersight) in the direction and I wonder if the content of some noticeably absent sections of the book – e.g. “Judas, must you betray me with a kiss?” – I wonder if there were a couple of things that proved just as unsavoury so they were omitted altogether? Again, I have to note, were it not a company with a proud public Christian face, it wouldn’t beg the questions…

Other directorial peculiarities:

  • The story within a story. This was the original convention used in the 1973 film and I have always loved it. In this production, it didn’t work. Not quite sure why. There was evidence of a solid notion but not of a fully conceived and consistently applied approach. Perhaps the entire exuberant ensemble needed to pile out of a combi and don their costume pieces onstage, rather than set apart the leads, in a parade past a costume box, whom we would have discovered in their roles as they played them anyway. The close-the-Good-Book-to-close-the-show just felt contrived and dismal. I thought Harvest Rain would end this show on a surprisingly upbeat note, in light of the widely held belief amongst Christians that Christ will come again…I too needed to leave with hope, not despair!
  • The anti-climax of Christ’s death upon the cross. Yes! Sorry, but yes. And yes, of course I’ve read all the other reviews and yes, of course I know you have to do it and yes, at least half of you will disagree that this was not in fact, as intended, the show’s emotional climax (we already had that, waaay back in Gethsemene, thanks to Mr Kennedy. IMHO). Great, powerful staging but I got only a semblance of the gamut of emotions and I suddenly thought, “Oh, why is it so hard to procure Luke’s soul again for the penultimate (spoken) moments?!” I also wondered why he was not on tiptoes the whole time and why his head was not looking dreadfully heavy up there and increasingly difficult to lift/hold up and why his fists remained clenched in death. I know. I’m hard to please.
  • The title number, Jesus Christ Superstar, utterly confused me. WHY did Judas, after his inconsequential suicide, insist on shutting out the bright white light of Jesus, spilling through those massive doors, not once, not twice but several times throughout the number?! The whole point to this number is to celebrate (and recap for the audience) the life of Jesus, is it not? I was desperate to see Judas champion this song! Joyful, joyful and all that stuff! Again, awesome vocal talent and killer good looks aside, I felt that Tod was not challenged to find the joy or indeed, the WIN in this number. Sometimes, in trying to do something altogether different, in order to establish ourselves as original theatre-makers, we hurt the story…or don’t quite tell it. And we limit the characters’ arcs and their relationships.
  • Transitions were non-existent. The jukebox musicals are not my faves in any context but this almost started to feel like one…and it shouldn’t have. Unless you bill it as a concert, work hard on the transitions of a show. Help your performers get from one situation/emotion to the next; their job is tough enough as it is! If there is no definite break shown in the score, why not let the band, who were strategically placed across the beautifully ruined cathedral setting, play through?

I really would like to see Harvest Rain, resisting trying too hard to be different for the sake of being different. It was not all the time, it was just every now and then; there were moments of, “Oh, there they go, trying to be different“. For example, Judas singing not to Mary or Jesus but to members of the ensemble, about the wasted fine ointments, brand new and expensive, which could have been saved for the poor…Sam and I argued about this. I didn’t feel that it worked. He did. He liked that it was directed so differently and to him, gave the story another colour.

Something a little different, which certainly had the desired effect, was the cool, creepy, puppet-like council, comprised of a host of fabulous voices and characterisations. In their white and red tatters and odd fur pieces, they were suitably freaky, frightening, and gave us just a hint of the rock star style that some of us saw (although I was VERY young) in those great bands of the 70’s.

This is a company who are just now, from an onlooker’s perspective at least, beginning to find their feet and beginning to get really good at the type of theatre they like to make, with a core group of performers with whom they like to make it (it must also be said that they are doing a great job of attracting new, young people to their shows, both onstage and off. And somebody is running a pretty tight ship during the rehearsal process)! Anyway, my point here is that of course it’s vital to try new approaches and employ new conventions but make sure they serve the purpose, tell the story, or else make another choice. One choice will be perceived as effective and another as calculated, contrived and maybe even a little naive.

The production elements – sound, lighting, set, costume, chore – were superb. On other nights, but not last night, I believe there were basic sound issues. You would think, in our premiere venue, companies like Harvest Rain, who are upholding their end of the bargain and putting on a great show, would not have to suffer through inadequate sound! What IS it with the sound?!

What an extraordinary creative team there is in Josh McIntosh (Designer), Maitlohn Drew (Musical Director), Jason Glenwright (Lighting Designer) and Callum Mansfield (Choreographer). With Director, Tim O’Connor, they really have put together a spectacular-looking and sounding show. In fact, it occurred to me, awestruck by the arrangement for Pilate’s Dream, that Mr Drew could do the schools’ and church choirs a favour and make his pieces available for download! Mr O’Connor is clearly, a mover and shaker of people and he has assembled a great team to support that, both on stage and off.

On stage, the 62 member ensemble were truly a joy to behold, vibrant and singing and dancing and living it. I loved some of the character work and all of the commitment, focus and energy from a great, gorgeous, courageous bunch of young people. A couple of stunning dancers stood out, particularly during Herod’s hilarious number. With the incomparable Steven Tandy running that part of the show they were always going to shine! It looked like such fun! And so funny, really; I had to laugh out loud!

The other stand out performance for me was Mr Lionel Theunissen’s, whose Pilate is unmatched by any I’ve seen. His was the mastery of emotional layers: self-inflicted pain and guilt, a forced hand, self-righteousness and absolute helplessness in a position of power; a theatrical storytelling treat.

I wonder where else Harvest Rain would go now, having firmly established themselves at QPAC? The calibre and perceived success of this production certainly begs the question again, doesn’t it? Perhaps not. Perhaps no one else is asking anymore. Perhaps they’ll stay and we’ll simply continue to enjoy, more and more, their shows there.