It was one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s earliest triumphs, a collaboration with Tim Rice which changed the face of musical theatre and opened it up to a new generation. And last week Dot Clarke’s Inspirations brought Jesus Christ Superstar to Chesterfield for the first time in years.
From the discordant opening right through to the wrenchingly dramatic conclusion, this production pulsed with energy.
Inspirations excel at crowd scenes and big company numbers. Among the most effective were the temple scene in act one, where an exhausted Jesus (Alex Wallhead) was overwhelmed by the sick and desperate, and its mirror in act two, a mock press conference after his arrest.
The enthusiastic youngsters outshone the few adults in the cast throughout, and the ensemble scenes were especially compelling. The disciples were suitably ill-disciplined, and Josh Mason’s swaggering Herod with bunny girls and the black-stockinged angels in the title number provided some lighter notes.
Only a few individuals had opportunities to shine. Daniel Woolley as Judas displayed fine acting and emotional range even if he wasn’t always note-perfect. Harriet Glynn’s Mary Magdalen was touchingly naïve. And most of all, Alex Wallhead portrayed Jesus as a fallible, vulnerable human being.
Poor sound balance on the first night meant some words were lost, but the story is familiar so it mattered less than usual.
The power of the brutally horrific closing scenes will live on in many minds; Dot Clarke doesn’t pull her punches. Full marks to Inspirations for living up to their name again.