Jesus Christ Superstar
CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norwich Theatre Royal
> Norwich Theatre Royal
With gusto and commitment, the Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society brings once more to the stage the passion, the rhythm and the show-stopping melodies of the musical drama by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
More than 30 years old now, this interpretation of the gospel story is still fresh and has not lost its power to grip. Ray Jeffery both directs and choreographs the show. He demonstrates his skills in the deft handling of a large chorus in a series of short episodes that must not take too long to set up.
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It is almost a matter of crowd control. Scene changes, too, are carried out at a rapid pace, somehow without seeming hurried.
Costumes naturally add a lot. Jesus in white and bare-headed is set off against the High Priests, black-hearted and clad in black, with their humanity crushed beneath towering hats.
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The scarlet and gold of the Roman soldiers and the Roman governor contrasts with the earth colours of the downtrodden Jews. To all this are added ironic comments in the shape of Herod's oriental harem and the razzmatazz of the Superstar routine.
Lighting plays a vital part, too. The set is uncluttered and simple, with two open-tread staircases leading up either side to a central gallery, with steps sometimes moving into the middle for special effects. Colour repeatedly transforms the picture, often with beautiful effects that alter the mood completely.
The musical director is Geoff Davidson, and the orchestra is lively and vivid, frequently adding poignant reflections on the action.
The balance is not always kind to the soloists, and Stephanie Moore as Mary was apparently the victim of a mike glitch early on. Steve Jones brought anguish, though not very clear diction, to the role of Judas, while Chris Dilley's Jesus was both of this world and of the other.