The first ever UK arena tour of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar opened at the O2 arena last Friday (21 September 2012).

The show features Ben Forster, winner of ITV casting show Superstar, as Jesus, with Tim Minchin as Judas Iscariot, Melanie C as Mary Magdalene and Chris Moyles as King Herod.

The production is about to embark on a tour around 11 cities across the UK and Ireland.

Michael Coveney
Whatsonstage.com
★★

…this fantastic production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's unsurpassed rock oratorio…really does take off in the huge arena, with superb (at first, far too loud) sound from a band of just ten players…Well done, Ben Forster, winner of the search for a Superstar television talent show. He offers a very decently acted…and convincingly emotional Jesus…But the honours resoundingly go to Tim Minchin as Judas…Minchin stalks the insurgency, singing his soul away in a Faustian pact…The turmoil on the streets…bask in the sensational lighting of the true maestro of the Olympic Games ceremonies, Patrick Woodroffe…Rice’s lyrics fully retain their slangy freshness, fun and literate bloom…Melanie C’s affecting Mary Magdalene. She puts in a fine acting performance, and thoughtful, touching versions of her two wistful, lyrical numbers…

Laura Thompson
Daily Telegraph
★★

…In Laurence Connor's directorial vision - brought to vigorous, violent life with the help of designers Mark Fisher (set) and Patrick Woodroffe (lighting)…It is a persuasive vision, expressed with some magnificent back-projections of urban poverty and corporate comfort…Tim Minchin is simply superb in the role. He sings amazingly well, but it is his face full of weary intelligence that keeps the heart of the show pure, in the midst of all the amplification…Ben Forster…proves that the public vote can sometimes get things right: he looks great and sings powerfully. Melanie Chisholm, a lovely relaxed Mary Magdalene, proves again that she was too good for the Spice Girls; while Chris Moyles, delightful as Herod, proves that there is life beyond Radio 1. But it is Minchin who proves that Jesus Christ Superstar is a work of conceptual genius.

Dominic Maxwell
The Times
★★

It’s big, it’s loud, it’s great entertainment…Minchin…gives Judas a compellingly conflicted air. And though he could perhaps do with looking up a bit more, his needly vocals and presence power the show…Forster has a diffidence about him that isn’t very messianic. But such doubts become cavils when you hear him sing, never better than when he hits the high notes in Gethsemane as Jesus considers his fate…The former Spice Girl…sings beautifully, holding on to her own singing style yet always serving the story. As does Chris Moyles, who knows just how to sell his comedy number as King Herod…The show gets the right balance between the spectacular, the jokey and the sincere…The performances from the well-choreographed supporting cast are fine throughout. Honestly, it’s enough to give rock opera a good name.

Lyn Gardner
Guardian

…Andrew Lloyd Webber, who should have known better than to crucify his own child by presenting it in this arena format …the large cast crowd scenes appear to have been directed on the premise that if Jesus is coming, it's best to look busy…although Forster makes plenty of noise, he has only two facial expressions… the acting is pretty rudimentary throughout, although Minchin brings intelligence and desperate passion to Judas, even if his singing is sometimes compromised by the effort. Mel C is a strangely laid-back Mary Magdalene, relaxed to the point of blankness. It's left to Alexander Hanson as the dithering Pontius Pilate to inject some theatrical class into the proceedings, although it is Chris Moyles's leering turn as Herod…which is the surprise success of an unconvincing evening.

Mark Shenton
The Stage

Everything’s not alright, alas, about a production which isn’t so much a musical as a deafening, deadening travesty of a great show… Ben Forster, who acts with soulful gazes and flicks of his tousled hair, but hits the high notes as required…I’ve seldom seen a production as utterly misconceived and overblown as this one...If the production completely fails to sustain the tensions of the story - the loud bits are excruciating, the tender moments lost - that’s largely not the fault of a hard-working, even harder-singing cast. There are a couple of triumphs among the casting. Tim Minchin effortlessly rises above the din to show that there’s nothing this man can’t do…And Alex Hanson, as Pontius Pilate, lends supreme vocal authority and acting assurance to prove what years of experience can bring to the stage…