It's a shame then that the 'star' they have come to see is dressed in a jacket and jeans, resembling the young shy boy from East Is East; you know the one who refuses to take off his parker? Gately has a nasally quality to his voice but much more power than you remember. This is all undone though by his willingness to be completely upstaged by his co star Ryan Molloy. This brilliant scene stealer plays John the Baptist and Judas and it is very hard to take your eyes off him. Displaying a genuine knack for comedy, exuding charm throughout with great vocals to boot, he leaves Gately's Jesus standing in the wings, looking bemused.
The overall tone of the piece has now been remixed for a modern audience. This means that you are left with a dated concept filled with contemporary references to everything from Judge Judy to Northern Rock. This starts off refreshing but ends up being annoying as it does make you feel emotionally detached from the proceedings, come the denouement.
The show literally springs into life during the gospel numbers. "Day By Day" is the most well known song in the show and in Sharon Cherry Ballard's capable hands, it remains an enduring classic. The ensemble work very well together and the whole cast epitomise the term team, feeding off each other at every turn. The track, "By My Side" has some beautiful harmonies and they are highlighted by these superb singers.
The meaning behind the show feels slightly muddled as Paul Kerryson directs the piece in such a confused manner, trying to have his cake and eat it. It ends up being part sermon, part rock musical with contemporary swipes thrown in to appeal to the masses.
Ultimately though, Jesus plays second fiddle to Judas, as Molloy is a star in waiting, and he is a godsend when the show falters.
- Glenn Meads