"Free Barabas"? You'll take whatever you can get for free and gratis at this expensive veneration of the almighty dollar. There's profit in the prophet, it seems. If Jesus was enraged by the profiteering of the sellers in the temple, he would surely be as offended at the sight of his name emblazoned across an overpriced t-shirt at the merchandise stand.
The greatest irony of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's stadium tour of Jesus Christ Superstar is how plainly this reality sits alongside the adaptation of the show itself. Here, Laurence Connor reimagines the high Pharisees of Rome as the power hungry capitalist oligarchs of our modern world, oppressing the lower classes and pushing them to explode in the torrents of desperation and hatred, the likes of which we saw during the London Riots. Down with capitalism indeed.
Whilst the comparison is an interesting one, and the show makes some salient points about the arbitrary powers that overshadow our economy and democracy, it is hard to sympathise with a show that champions "People Over Profit" before asking its audience to text a premium rate number to vote whether Christ was a "Lord or Fraud".
The greatest surprise about this tour is just how little drama there is to be found in this, "The Greatest Story Ever Told". Spare a few fantastic turns by Alex Hanson as Pilate, Pete Gallagher as Calaphas and Gerard Bentall as Hannas, it is difficult to find much emotional connection in the evening's proceedings. Even the crucifixion scene feels flat. If it wasn't for some interesting staging and wall of sound erupting from the stage, the would be very little at all to get excited about. He is Risen and so has the volume. But whilst the volume has been raised to the high Heavens, the level of the talent has not.
Whilst pleasant to listen to, Melanie C lacks the emotional passion or dramatic power which the role demands. She smiles tenderly and longs to "work it out, boy" with Jesus but, for the most part, it sounds like she is singing her verse of "2 Become 1". It's enjoyable and it's melodic but it's probably not theatre.
The winner of ITV's search for Jesus, Ben Forster, too, does as well as could be expected with what is for the most part a dull role but isn't until he hits the high notes of Gethsemane in the second act that he begins to feel like a leading man.
Tim Minchin plays the role of Judas with a Faustian flare and proves to be the only real revelation of the star turns. His performance is intelligent and passionate, conscious of the dilemmas and dangers which his character faces.
Whilst the Lord of musical theatre has had many successes in his career, it is difficult to imagine that this will be remembered as one of them. Jesus Christ Superstar has never been Lloyd Webber's strongest musical and, without the dramatic power necessary to deliver it from evil, this arena tour is proving to be trapped in a theatrical purgatory.
Jesus Christ Superstar is at the SECC, Glasgow, from September 25 until September 26.