22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Jesus Christ Superstar [DVD]  (DVD)
This was the first professional production of Jesus Christ Superstar I came across, after having the pleasure of being involved in an amateur production at our school backstage. This production is a recording based on the production staged by Gale Edwards, which I also viewed live at Bristol last year. It is a revolutionary look at the musical - a completely different visual style to the 1973 video production... and boy does it work.
Instead of the swords and sands of the '73 version it is set mostly inside in some strange reality in which technology of the present can be seen ("Put away your sword," Jesus says to someone holding a machine gun,) but in the architectural style of revolutionaries in underground catacombes... (the opening overture rises above 'Liberty' and 'Democracy' graffiti.. as well as grafitti of a quote by George Orwell, interestingly enough) Visually, it works terrifically - particularly in the Overture, Superstar and Pilate & Christ. Again, visually it is very symbollic - about half way through the crowd - wearing their tie-die tee-shirts - change into a mob wearing complete black, appearing menacing... for this reason, the visualisations are also very symbollic. The lighting and costumes also add a lot this effect (a particular memory is Pontious Pilate in his huge military leather cloak...)
And now to the cast: Glenn Carter, I believe, provided quite a good Jesus in both the acting and the singing - far better than the 1973 version's Ted Neeley, although not, in my opinion, as strong as 1996's Steven Balsalmo, who's interpretation of Gethsemane is incredible. However, I've read many negative comments of his role in this film, and I don't believe that they are all entirely justified (in my opinion.) Judas was portrayed well, although vocally I don't believe he was as strong as in other interpretations. I do feel that he was very varied and portrayed the emotions and dilemas of Judas very effectively. I found the interpretation of Mary Magdalen reasonably good; the best Mary vocally I've encountered came from an amateur production, however. Pontious Pilate was outstanding - a completely different vocal style to the original Pilate who was quiter (I mean metaphorically, not in volume) - providing some very powerful performances. I did find that, however, the interpretation of Pilate's Dream was the weakest aspect of This Production - in my opinion it was far too emotional. This Pilate's interpretation of Pilate & Christ I believe to be truly exceptional. The preists I also believe to have been very effective, particularly Annas; and Rik Mayall provided an amusing rendition of Herod, though not my favourite vocally (although his predecessors in this role include Meatloaf and Alice Cooper, so what's to be expected?) The Simon was also very good, sounding very enthusiastic and, to quote from the score, "quasi soul." Peter was also reasonable.
In addition, this production also has very many 'clever touches,' examples including Judas showing Jesus the bible during the quote "Did you know your messy death would Be a record breaker?" during the abstract Superstar.
One thing I haven't commented on here is the Musical Itself - it goes without saying that its an exceptional creation; and you can probably guess that I've encountered it before. The lyrics are incredibly witty and the music very profound and great to listen to independantly of watching any production: although, in my opinion, the best production to listen to vocally is the 1996 version. However, visually, this production is stunning, and all-round it definately comes out on top.