I’ll admit I was sceptical to say the least. As nothing short of a musical aficionado I like to reckon I have an eye for what makes a stand out show. And so, with sweets in one hand and dubious anticipation in the other I awaited CHMS’s Jesus Christ Superstar.
The opening to act one tripped with atmospheric tension and a sense of foreboding, heightened by Alexander Wilson’s powerfully tumultuous opening number which was delivered with powerfully emotional conviction. The man, ladies and gentleman, is every inch the rock star and his portrayal of Christ’s turncoat, was outstanding. The stampede of choreography that followed, whilst in essence was cleverly constructed, lacked the finesse and precision which met the mark on my aforementioned expectations.
Disappointment lingered for me as we were introduced to Christ (Nicholas Armfield). Whilst Armfield, preppy and clean cut in chinos and crisp white shirt, was vocally splendid throughout the show’s entirety, the first act played host to a protagonist who’s charmingly melodic voice gave way to a standard ‘good guy’ and verged on the precipice of cheesy. Don’t get me wrong he was technically brilliant, I just didn’t (yet) buy it.
I must applaud the genius who interpreted the portrayal of Mary Magdalene, not as piously simpering but sassy, strong, lingerie and leather clad and the ultimate tease. Emily Down juxtaposed this with her raw and undeniably perfect solo which shivered with emotion. Get the girl out of uni and onto the West End please.
Act Two blew me away, as my friend said “they really pulled it out the bag”. Whilst the first half was good with some undeniably strong moments, the second act saw a faster turnaround than when a Willow virgin encounters the toilets for the first time. Everything just seemed to come together. The chorus, whilst initially a bit hesitant and a tad unconvincing suddenly melded vocally, the ominous tension crept up at rapid speed and Armfield really came into his own. Christ coming to his demise the brutality of emotion which transcended my initial impressions left me speechless. I swiftly retracted them and became enthralled with his supremely impressive performance.
My favourite moments? Firstly the garishly brilliant force of “Superstar”. The cast burst forth from the darkness of the previous scenes with unquestionable brilliance of performance and vocal energy. Secondly, “Pilates Dream” sung by Pete Watts who’s rich and flawless voice filled the every corner of Central Hall and disguised the fact that my jaw had dropped to the floor with resonate surprise.
Ultimately though, the show exceeded all my qualms of student productions. Aside from what I can only presume to be first night shaky moments in the choreography the castings were perfect, the vocals superbly distinctive and the power and emotion sensational. I doff my hat to CHMS and have no fear that the weekends performances will continue to thrive with the brilliance I encountered last night.
There really are some super stars among us.