Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical masterpiece Jesus Christ Superstar has been resurrected in Bournemouth! This year, BBLOC have returned to the Pavilion stage with a rock opera of biblical proportions. The show gives the four gospels a star-studded makeover as it retells the last week of Jesus’ life complete with evocative lyrics, memorable riffs and the occasional nod to modern sensibilities. With multiple award wins and nominations throughout its professional history (including the Laurence Olivier Award for ‘Best Musical Revival’ in 2017), BBLOC had a lot to live up to; a challenge they accepted with intoxicating enthusiasm.
Alongside established production manager Duncan Hook, Helen Barrington returns to direct her third sequential show for BBLOC after audience favourite Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2018) and visual tour de force Priscilla Queen of the Desert (2017) with another feast for the senses. The combination of shadow, light and colour from an originally greyscale and deceptively complicated set complements the exhilarating score which is performed and conducted immaculately by musical director Ian Peters and his orchestra. BBLOC’s Jesus Christ certainly offers audiences an evocative cornucopia of imagery, music and powerful performances from an exceptionally talented cast.
None more so than Charles Michael Duke in the role of the troubled Judas Iscariot. Charles has already received massive acclaim in the press following his double lung transplant in May 2018. His performance tonight demonstrates how amazing human resilience is; and, thanks to our NHS, I was honoured to have the opportunity to watch what he does best. With incredibly strong vocals, a commanding stage presence and infectious characterisation, Charles is an astounding and inspirational performer; a credit to not only BBLOC but the musical theatre industry as he demonstrates never give up.
Equally incredible are Matthew Traher as Jesus and Kirstie Rogers as Mary Magdalene. Matthew’s vocal range was tested and triumphed in ‘Gethsemane’ as he hits notes impossible for many. He manages to capture Jesus Christ as not the biblical icon but as human; with perfectly executed emotion and mannerisms throughout. Meanwhile, Kirstie’s diction and lyricism are flawless with audience favourite ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ the most memorable act one number.
The leads are complemented by a talented and enthusiastic supporting cast and ensemble who all come into their own in act two. Whilst act one of this sung-through musical could have been difficult to follow with lyrics sometimes tricky to pick out, the second act reminded me why audiences love BBLOC. ‘King Herod’s Song,’ performed by the accomplished Lea Martin, provided much needed comic relief before culminating in the seminal smash hit ‘Superstar,’ well-choreographed by Heather Davis. Unfortunately, a technical hitch halted proceedings during this finale sequence, but I was more than happy to enjoy the song twice with the gaffe testifying to the professionalism and dedication of the performers.
A special mention to Janine Long’s costume design and wardrobe whose modern versus archaic take worked well for the ensemble, whilst the grey shades in Jesus’ and Judas’ costumes gave a nice metaphor for these characters’ layered personalities. Similarly, aided by an impressive lighting plot, the ‘Superstar’ sequence bathed in white is easily the most visually stimulating in the entire show.
BBLOC has done it again with an evocative musical guaranteed to appeal to your inner rock star. There are certainly multiple ‘superstars’ in this show, all of whom will go far in the performance industry. Congratulations to a superb company and thank you for a magnificent show.
Further performances 25 – 27 July, 7.30pm with a Thursday and Saturday 2.30pm matinee. Tickets £18.50 – £22.50.