Northern Ireland news

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar

Patrick D’Arcy plays the role of Jesus

YEARS ago, as a young bride, I walked down the aisle of Carlisle Memorial Church, brilliant stained glass windows, majestic mahogany pulpit and polished pews filled with friends and family.

On Tuesday I revisited Carlisle, emotional certainly but only because that beautiful building is jumping with life again. The choir stalls and the choir are long gone but this week new, young, fresh voices lift the valued roof and boy do they do it well.

Jesus Christ Superstar has probably been done a million times before yet each company presents it differently and the Belfast School of Performing Arts have taken the musical and moulded it into something special - and different.

Director Peter Corry, his production team and excellent band, have nurtured 36 young people from 14 to 22 years of age and challenged them with a most demanding two hours, complex crowd scenes well choreographed, whether praising Jesus or condemning him every face wears an expression appropriate to their character, little cameo scenes as disciples discusses the latest news or a lynch mob bays for a crucifixion - like a scene from Michael Jackson's Thriller.

The high priestesses are terrifying, there are 14 at the last supper which is poetic licence, Mary Magdelene was there too, Judas has a colourful young man playing his conscious and at 14 years of age Louis McCartney has tremendous stage presence.

Mary, (Emiko Seawright) singing I Don't Know How To As Love Him is sweet and heartfelt, Judas, (Conor Johnston), is a tortured soul, Jesus (Patrick D'Arcy) is strong both in body and voice and you could understand how people would follow this charismatic man to his death and he is electrifying in the final scenes, the 39 lashes each one reverberating as they were counted out before the dramatic the Crucifixion.

On opening night the acoustics in the huge building proved difficult at times but by the second act this was no longer a problem. Lighting and dry ice set the atmosphere.

These young people, still in education, give their audiences a show to remember and for themselves a taste of theatre that will stay with them for ever and, Hosanna, what a good use of an iconic building.

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