Anyone who knows me will be aware of my love of musicals, and I even enjoy the cheesy Andrew Lloyd-Webber audition shows that seem to be an annual event on British TV these days. The last of these shows – Superstar – followed the search for a lead for a new stadium tour of Jesus Christ Superstar, which has always been a favourite of mine.
I didn’t get to see the show while it was on tour (though it’s coming around for a second run in March) so I bought the DVD, instead. As well as Ben Forster as Jesus (the winner of the televised audition), the show stars Tim Minchin as Judas, Mel C as Mary Magdalene and Chris Moyles as Herod.
I initially had some concerns about the casting.
I’m a huge fan of Minchin – an Australian singer/songwriter, who I believe has true genius when it comes to writing and performing his own songs (and his soundtrack for Matilda the Musical is astonishingly good!) – but I was worried that his voice wasn’t strong enough to carry the (very difficult) rock songs that Judas has to sing (including Heaven on Their Minds – possibly my favourite track in the musical). I needn’t have worried. In an interview on the DVD, Lloyd-Webber suggests that Minchin might be the best Judas ever to appear in the show. After watching his performance I wouldn’t argue against that.
But Chris Moyles as King Herod? Come on… That’s stunt casting, surely? Well, as it turns out – no, it’s not. Moyles isn’t the strongest singer in the show, it’s true, but the modern media-aware, social-media-friendly interpretation of the show makes great use of his presenter skills, and he pulls it off with aplomb.
Mel C is also excellent as Mary Magdalene, but as an Olivier-nominated performer (for her role in Blood Brothers) that’s not much of a surprise.
And Ben Forster as Jesus? His performance is soft and gentle when it needs to be, big and impressive when it has to be. His Jesus Christ really is the rise of Forster as a Superstar, and his interpretation of Gethsemane has to be seen!
So, my casting concerns? It just goes to show that the folk who wrote and produced the show do know better than a middle-aged observer up in North Yorkshire, after all! Who knew!