Lincoln Superstar in Review

A few months ago I diverted from the primary subject of this blog to review the west end musical Wicked.″ title=”A Small Departure – Wicked In Review   As a professional production it exceeded my expectations in every way and I have been looking for other opportunities to see musicals ever since. With that in mind I was delighted to hear that some of my students were due to appear in an amateur musical production in Lincoln cathedral. Tickets sold out far too quickly for me to get in on the first round but I was lucky enough to get a pair of tickets for an additional performance decided on at the last minute.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical I have actually avoided seeing until now, mostly because of the religious aspect which is not something that interests me. I was therefore heading to the show mostly because I was proud to see my students perform (and they were wonderful, even in minor roles they shone – and I don’t think that was just my rose-tinted spectacles). I expected less from an amateur performance than I am used to experiencing from the professional companies I usually see, it was not long before I realised what a mistake that expectation was.

We can start with the staging. The 200 strong cast made use of the entire cathedral to set a completely immersive atmosphere from the moment you walked through the door. The feeling was one of walking round an ancient market place, as though it were a living museum. From oldest to youngest the performers were completely absorbed in the roles they played and they carried the audience along with them.

By the time the music started and the performance began in earnest I was already almost too absorbed to remember to take any more photos.

I knew enough of Ben Poole, playing the lead role of Jesus, to know that I should expect a confident and competent performance from him. I was not prepared for how thoroughly he embodied the role, the commitment to every scene from the lightest to the grittiest and the sheer power of his performance. By the end of the show if he had asked the audience to follow him off a cliff I think they would have done it. I cannot imagine a more compelling actor to play the role, and I have seen less convincing acting win Oscars.

An absolute stand-out performance was also delivered by Sophie Kamal in the role of Mary Magdalene. Having downplayed her abilities prior to the show she surprised me in the best possible way. The whole show was brilliant, but if everything else had been terrible it would still have been worth going just to hear this lady sing. I saw a few people around me wiping away tears during “I don’t know how to love him” and once or twice I even felt a lump in my own throat – not something that happens easily, and I have never felt a performer’s emotions that powerfully during a musical before. As well as being technically competent and an extremely good actress Sophie has that rare quality to the tone of her voice that takes your breath away when you hear it.

In an amateur production you often expect there to be one or two stand out performers who carry the show and then a plethora of “nice” safe performances. In this show there was no room for “nice” or safe. You would struggle to find such a concentration of talent on a broadway stage never mind in an amateur production. Even one or two sore throats (only to be expected after two weeks of performances) did not lessen the impact of the show.  Judas became incredibly complex, it takes a talented actor indeed to make an audience empathise with one of the most famous and hated villains in history. Herod was wickedly insane and hilariously funny all at the same time, a very young actor pulled off a performance of a much older character with flair. Special mentions must also go to the actors portraying Annas, Peter, Pilate and John the Baptist.

One particular surprise came during the temple scene when 10 year old Imogen Murphy came within a hair’s breadth of stealing the show as a group of guardsman attempted to sell her as a slave. A name to watch for the future.

At the end of the show the finale moved out into the open air outside the cathedral and left everyone spellbound – and not caring at all about being eaten alive by the Lincoln midges! It was a perfect ending to a fantastic experience.

Is there anything I would have changed? Yes. I would have made sure I got in quick enough to get tickets for more than one performance, because I was definitely left wanting more.

I can’t wait to see what this amateur company do next. One thing I do know for certain – whatever it is I want tickets.


5 thoughts on “Lincoln Superstar in Review”

  1. Thankyou for your fantastic review. I had the pleasure of building the set and props, a tadk in itself, but also played head guard and got to crucify Ben every night. It was an amazing group to work with and we were overwhelmed at the crowds turning up each night to see our finale from the West Door. I truly believe if we could take it on tour, everyone would still want to be involved. But would have loved to have been able to sit and watch as an audience member. Thank you once again.

    1. My pleasure, every word meant from the bottom of my heart. I am so proud just to be able to say that I know the people involved. I have some incredibly talented students – and they have exceptionally talented parents. Please do let me know what is happening next I was inspired enough to think I might want to be involved with the stage crew next time! No chance of getting me on stage as I couldn’t carry a tune if my life depended on it, but a nice little spot in wardrobe/makeup would suit me nicely!

  2. Dear Sarah,
    Thank you so so much for your lovely review of me and the rest of the cast. What you said about me in the temple really touched me. I’ve enjoyed this experience so much, it’s been so much fun! This has been a heart touching experience. I have never done anything this big in my acting before and it has been such a great opportunity to do it with so many talented people.
    Hope to meet you one day so I can thank you in person,
    Imogen Murphy.

    1. You are most welcome Imogen. I am sure we will meet at some point, perhaps at a performance of whatever project you get involved with next! I will be looking for an autograph!

  3. Hi Sarah, loved your review and so pleased our performance touched you – it certainly moved us every night! This was my first venture into musical theatre being a ‘mature’ choral singer from Derbyshire it was a real adventure. Ben gave me, or was it my character Isaac the leper, the opportunity to develop a thread throughout the show that meant I got to work with him in a number of very intimate scenes. I can testify that from very close quarters the intensity of his performance moved me to tears pretty well every night. He is our Superstar amongst a cast of Superstars and my ‘moments’ with with him and with Sophie/Mary will stay with me for ever. Geoff (aka Isaac)

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