Jesus Christ Superstar proves to be a rock opera sensation at St Mary's Centre, Clitheroe

I had never seen the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber rock opera ?Jesus Christ Superstar?.

Friday, 22nd February 2019, 2:36 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd February 2019, 2:37 pm
The cast of Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, which was performed at St Mary's Centre by Clitheroe Parish Church Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. (s)
The cast of Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber, which was performed at St Mary's Centre by Clitheroe Parish Church Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society. (s)

I have enjoyed so many Clitheroe Parish Church Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society productions before and I was looking forward to this one. I was not disappointed. It was spectacular.

The events of the drama are familiar to millions. Indeed, it is probably the best known story in our lives: the final week in the life of Christ from his entry into Jerusalem to his Crucifixion.

I wasn’t sure how I would react to a rock opera about such a momentous and harrowing narrative, but I was completely caught up in the drama.

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The first act follows the celebratory arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem with great opportunities for some splendid chorus singing.

However, the ending is foreshadowed by the arias of Judas (Robbie Waugh) and his conflict with Jesus (Ryan Coe) over future plans, and also by the threats of the Priests, Annas (Fletcher Illingworth) and Caiaphas( Simon Thompson).

Mary Magdalene (Rachael Dootson) was Jesus’ loyal and loving supporter.

The second act was immensely powerful, fast-paced and emotional and again centres on the discord between Jesus, Judas and Mary until the tragic, distressing ending.

There were some forceful arias from Pilate (John Ormerod) in his dream that comes true when he is forced to condemn Jesus to death.

The only moment of relief in the second act was a sparkling comic aria from Herod (Chris Clarke) before the agony to come.

I call them arias because, for me, this is just like “real” opera, which I love. Rice and Lloyd Webber have created something as good as Puccini, Verdi et al.

I noted that in the first act the audience clapped at the end of each “song” but in the second act we were all too caught up in the emotion to interrupt.

There wasn’t a weak link in this production. The chorus and the Apostles sang with energy and power. All the principals sang with vigour and strong voices.

I liked the contrast between Annas and Caiaphas. David Hulme (Peter) and Matt Haworth (Simon Zealotes) led a strong group of apostles.

Inevitably this is the story of Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene and the three singers were very impressive. Ryan Coe was inspiring in the difficult role of Jesus as was Rachael Dootson as Mary, who sang I Don’t Know How to Love Him beautifully. I think, for me, it was Robbie Waugh’s Judas who moved me most and I felt all his inner turmoil. His reprise of I Don’t Know How to Love Him at the end was superb. There can’t have been a dry eye in the house. Praise must go to choreographer Lindsay Pollard and the team of dancers as well as the skilful management of moving the large chorus around the very effective simple set.

The orchestra under musical director Jack Herbert contributed enormously to the success of the production, directed by Anne Grogan.

This was a night to remember. All my memories of my Presbyterian Sunday School and my Church of England boarding school were transformed. I have to confess that Matins next morning seemed just a wee bit tame.

I wonder what next year’s Nine to Five is going to do to my memories of work?