The second of the early Bible-based musicals by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice retains all its power, and much of that power is conveyed in South Downe Musical Society’s production.
Alex Hillman in the title role has an impressive command of the notes, even if he needs to develop more personality in his acting in order to justify the ‘superstar’ status declared in the title. But Lee Stoddart’s effective lighting design helps alleviate that problem.
Tony Bryant, on the other hand, has all the personal and dramatic force of Judas’s torment but cannot cope with the highest notes as securely as he once did.
No question marks over Samantha Kelly’s first appearance in a leading role with the company, though. Nothing surpasses her lyrical, poignant singing of Mary Magdalene’s I Don’t Know How To Love Him.
Musical director Alan Pring could possibly give her a little more breathing space but that would be a harsh criticism given that his readiness to keep the tempo moving is a consistent plus elsewhere.
Director John-Paul McCrohon marshals his forces as effectively as ever, particularly in the use of the Soul Girls, even if his claim of a ‘unique take’ on the work is hardly justified. The modern setting is far from original.
Other notable performers in a production showing all the benefits of a lot of hard work include Paul Tully as Pilate, Matt Sackman as Peter, Danny Owen as Caiaphas and Steve Reading as Simon.