Verdict: A musical play that teaches the importance of love and peace through Rock music.
The first show of Alyque Padamsee’s Jesus Christ Superstar opened in St. Andrew’s Auditorium, Bandra on December 5th, 2014. The show marked the beginning of the first season of the musical. It will return once again on January 16, 17 and 18 for its second season.
Originally staged in 1970, Jesus Christ Superstar had music by the great Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by the equally awesome Tim Rice. Every other staging of the musical, including the 1973 film, has used the same composition, while adding new layers to the overall act. The recent shows saw the likes of Glenn Carter and Tim Minchin participating in the musical to give the show a new feel.
But this isn’t the first time the Indian audience got to watch Jesus Christ Superstar. In his foreword, Mr. Padamsee acknowledged how the journey began for him 40 years ago, where his hunt lead him to the legendary Nandu Bhende (who played Judas). Mr. Bhende, unfortunately passed away earlier this year, and Mr. Padamsee dedicated the show to his memory.
The night opened to a packed auditorium. There were kids singing the famous “Hosanna” from the show, ushering the audience to get into the mood as they waited for the doors to open. Once inside, you could see the stage was modified, with an extension added in the form of a cross-shaped ramp. This is both iconic and genius, as the extension gave the characters a chance to interact more freely with the crowd.
For a musical, Jesus Christ Superstar was impeccable. Every actor played his/her part with dedication, never leaving character and singing their pieces without going off-tune even once. The most important musical pieces were sung by the characters of Judas, Mary Magdalene and of course, Jesus. But even among them, Judas (played by rock singer 2Blue), was the one who managed to give me goosebumps every time he took to the stage. Nicholas Brown as Jesus was charismatic, and was calm and intense when needed. What’s most notable is how he handled the song, Gethsemane (I only want to say), which is one of the most complicated vocal pieces in the history of musical plays.
The execution of certain scenes is commendable. Especially the one where neon lights are used to portray Jesus’ dilemma and the use of side projections to create pillars, transporting you to a Roman palace. An underlying message about today’s media and warring armies also resonates throughout Jesus’ trial. The performers also make full use of Shiamak Davar‘s choreography to give a modern edge to certain musical numbers.
The only complaint would be with how the scenes transitioned, with the musical interludes not being in sync. But once the characters started to sing, the audience was completely engrossed in the scene, ignoring the minor flaws. This is again noteworthy, since the play doesn’t bring anything new in terms of story (the passion of Jesus Christ is a story we are all too aware of). The curtain closes with Jesus dying on the cross, and Mother Mary singing in his memory. There was no curtain call because of the nature of the play, and the audience quietly moved out.
The memorable tunes were hummed by some, while others spoke about how well the actors performed their role. But what struck everyone the most, is the message. The message that surpasses religion and time. The message that the only thing humanity has ever needed – is peace.