Theatre Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR – The Lowry, Salford

With standout performances and impressive choreography, Timothy Sheader’s 2024 reimagining of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is a dark, symbol-rich, and emotionally intense production.

5 out of 5 stars

Following its opening at Manchester’s Palace Theatre last year, Timothy Sheader’s bold reinterpretation of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR has finally arrived at Salford’s The Lowry as part of its UK tour.

First staged on Broadway in 1971, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR explores the final weeks of Jesus Christ’s life. Told from the perspective of disciple Judas Iscariot, the rock musical challenged traditional theatrical conventions with its unconventional storytelling when it first made its premiere, and this 2024 version continues to push boundaries.

Under Tim Sheader’s direction, Drew McOnie’s choreography and Grant Walsh’s musical direction, it’s easy to see why this reimagined production won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. Rich in symbolism, this latest stage version is much darker than previous interpretations. Tom Scutt’s industrial, multidimensional set allows for a chaotic yet precisely choreographed first act that combines physical theatre with a rock concert atmosphere.

In the lead role, Ian McIntosh, as Jesus, exudes gravitas, poise, and dignity while also conveying the pressure and burden of knowing what is to come. His rendition of GETHSEMANE stands out as a highlight of the evening. Shem Omari James as Judas brings raw emotional intensity to the role, his vocals cutting sharply through the building tension. Together, the pair vocally spar through the stages of their friendship until the inevitable happens.

Elsewhere, Hannah Richardson delivers a beautiful rendition of I DON’T KNOW HOW TO LOVE HIM as Mary, and Ryan O’Donnell as Pilate is strong and mesmerising. There’s also a scene-stealing turn from Timo Tatzber as Herod, whose performance in a shimmering gold lamé cape and platform boots shifts quickly from fun to frightening.

But the real star of the show is the musical score by multi-award winners Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Reflecting the rock roots of the original concept album, ensemble numbers such as WHAT’S THE BUZZ?, HOSANNA and SUPERSTAR are energetic and engaging, showcasing McOnie’s impressive choreography. The live band on stage and actors playing instruments while performing add to the dynamic experience.

The result is a thundering visual spectacle and concert-like experience that is both gorgeously gruelling and emotionally shattering. This new UK tour production hits all the right notes, remaining fresh and innovative without losing its identity.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR runs at The Lowry, Salford, until 25 May 2024