In which I consider Jesus and the Doctor (in a wholly TV/theatre non-blasphemous reviewing sense)

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This weekend I experienced two exciting things. Two whole exciting things. The exciting things, one could say, were twofold. Exciting things transpired in an even number of occurrences greater than one but no more than three. The aforementioned two things were as follows:

1. Jesus Christ Superstar at the Manchester Arena

2. Doctor Who

By now all readers should either be mentally singing “Jesus Christ! Superstar! Do you think you’re what they say you are?” or “Dum-de-dum, dum-de-dum, dum-de-dum, durrrrrr,” or some sort of weird mash-up of the two. I hope this is bringing you pleasure. So here are some little reviews of these two exciting things. (If you’ve not seen Doctor Who – The Angels Take Manhattan, be warned – there may be spoilers).

1. Jesus Christ Superstar

So this is one of those big Andrew Lloyd Webber musical productions where they cast the main character by the medium of a tv picking programme. It wsan’t a vintage picking programme. Previous ALW franchises have been super-low budget and high camp BBC productions presented by Graham Norton and replete with timeslot inappropriate smuttiness and extensive taking of the piss out of The Lord (that’s Lord Lloyd Webber, not The actual Lord). The Jesus picking was done on ITV, presented by Amanda Holden, with all the lack of irony and shiny shiny stage sets that that implies.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, because the part they were picking a performer for was Jesus, and, despite the title, Jesus ain’t the main character in this show. Judas is. Jesus, in the first half particularly, is a tad whiny and self-involved, and you can kind of see why Judas would want to hand him over to the authorities. Apart from hitting a couple of truly excruciatingly high notes, Jesus mainly just has to wander around looking alternately pretty and then tortured.

Which brings me onto the high points of this production. First up, Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot. Now I slightly love Tim Minchin – he made it onto my desert island last Christmas, and his was definitely that stand out performance of the show. Yay, yay, and thrice yay to Mr Minchin.

The other, slightly surprising, high point was Chris Moyles as King Herod. Herod only really has one scene and one song, and it’s a funny song, so it’s kind of a tricky role to mess up, but Moyles excelled. The staging of Herod’s court as a TV talk show worked, and Moyles nailed the Jeremy Kyle with a hint of Saturday night vibe perfectly.

My main quibble with the show wasn’t the performances, it was the staging. This show is being presented as an arena tour, which Lloyd Webber insists is consistent with his original artistic intention in writing a rock piece. But actually this show felt like a theatre show transplanted to an arena. The staging was super-traditional proscenium arch style, with hardly any use made of the space available. Because the production adopted a straight stage at the front format, some of the sight lines for the audience at the sides of the venue were terrible. I like the idea of doing a rock musical in a rock venue, but if you do, why waste all that lovely space and flexibility by staging it like a theatre production? Sadly, the staging did let the production down, as it felt slightly like it was neither an intimate theatre show or a big arena extravaganza.

Overall, good idea, some great performances, but a bit more focus needed on the staging and the production really produce Wow moments in a large arena.

 

2. Doctor Who – “The Angels Take Manhattan” (FINAL WARNING – risk of spoilers if you’ve not seen the episode).

Ooooh! Doctor Who! The Weeping Angels (by far the best baddie of the New Who era) are back! River Song (who I want to be when I grow up) is back! Amy and Rory are going! This may all be too much to cope with.

And it was. It was all too much to cope with. I think I started crying when Old Rory died and pretty much didn’t stop until after the picture of Clara/Oswin/Whoever-in-space-and-time-she-turns-out-to-be in the Christmas special preview. This was my favourite sort of Doctor Who episode – small in scale, focussed on the details of the scariness. Rory desperately lighting matches in the cellar, the Doctor running across New York to find the last page, River snapping her own wrist in preference to letting the Doctor down.

And Amy and Rory are gone forever. Or are they? Nothing is really forever in sci-fi, but I hope (although I’m a fan of both characters, especially lovely gentle surprised-by-his-own-heroism Rory) that they don’t make the, apparently increasingly obligatory, end of season reappearances. It’s darker, more interesting, if the Doctor (or indeed any hero character) has some situations, some problems, that they can’t just wave a sonic screwdriver at and resolve before the credits roll.

 

So those were the weekend’s two exciting things. How about you? What exciting things do you have to tell us about?

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6 thoughts on “In which I consider Jesus and the Doctor (in a wholly TV/theatre non-blasphemous reviewing sense)

    john said:
    October 1, 2012 at 10:41 am

    Great post Alison, particularly as your life seems to be mirroring mine or vice versa. I also saw Jesus Christ superstar and had the same opinion of the whole as you. Judas superstar, Jesus famous person to get in the crowds. Of course, I saw it in Stockholm where Jesus was the ex-lead singer of a rock band and Judas was a whoooooo? Speaking of Who, I watched the Doc yesterday and had to hug my cat to my face to hide some somewhat watery eyes. I’ve never liked the angels actually, and am no fan of Amelia pond (Rory was a dude though mainly because he had a dad, and that dad was… even better that), this episode was great though. 10 times better than any of the other, frankly dissapointing, four episodes this season.
    Keep up the ace blogging!!

    Like

      alisonmay responded:
      October 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

      I quite liked 3 out of the 5 eps of Dr Who this season I think. Liked Asylum of the Daleks, liked the last ep, and liked the first 35 minutes of Power of 3 (although the ending was a bit rushed). A Town Called Mercy and Dinosaurs and a Spaceship were fine Saturday teatime entertainment but not much more. I guess that’s the flipside of having such a wide variety of settings and stories – you’re not going to please everyone every time.

      Like

    dee said:
    October 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Only boring downton Abby which was sadly v predictable this week. Not nearly as exciting as yr weekend! Would love to see moyles as Herod- might chech utube for clips!

    Like

    Jane Lovering said:
    October 1, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Those baby Angels were terrifying! I thought I was too old for all that kind of thing, but I held my breath for 45 minutes during that entire episode. The Angels were scary, Rory and Amy were (I hate to say it because I loathe Amy like you wouldn’t believe) quite loveable and the Doctor and River were terrific. I held on until Amy said ‘Raggedy Man – goodbye’, and then it was tears until bedtime.
    Have no opinion of JCS as haven’t seen it, but Tim Minchin for God, please.

    Like

    inbetweenthespeakers said:
    October 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I saw Jesus Christ Superstar at Manchester Arena on Monday too! Tim Minchin definitely stole the show, and I agree that the stage looked FAR too small for such a huge arena. Overall it was a great show though! And I also cried over Doctor Who on Saturday night… It appears that our weekends consisted of the same two exciting things! Haha. xx

    Like

      alisonmay responded:
      October 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

      Oooh.. spooky parallel lives!

      Like

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