A few months ago I diverted from the primary subject of this blog to review the west end musical Wicked. http://creatingwithkohla.com/wordpress/?p=166″ 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.