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Superstar blog: Ben takes the gold

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So after only a few weeks on our television screens, Andrew Lloyd Webber has found Jesus, and his name is Ben Forster.

Rory Taylor grabbed silver, with Roger Wright taking home the bronze medal.

Opening with “Hosanna”, last night’s final demonstrated what a spectacular the show can become with the right production and cast. All three Jesus’s (or Jesi?) shared lead vocals, naturally, and gave the show an opening it needed; uplifting and energetic.

Kicking off the show was eventual winner Ben with his rendition of “Who Wants to Live Forever”; perhaps he used it as an audition for We Will Rock You just in case he didn’t get the job of Jesus. I have to say though, his vocals are strong and he really is a deserving winner. I was pretty sure from his performance that he would be the winner and rightly so.

Rory took centre stage to give a lacklustre performance of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”. It was ok. I don’t think it was the greatest performance he’s done and certainly not a winning performance. Strange backing dancers surrounded him pretending to play the violin. Odd.

Finally Roger belted out “Don’t Let the Sun Go down on Me”, claiming it was ‘his version’ - I didn’t notice much difference with it to be honest but I liked it. I liked it a lot. Then again we’ve all seen this song performed so many times on various talent shows that it has lost its meaning somewhat. Roger did a good job with what he had and I’m sure he will have a good career on the back of the show.

The three of them singing together on “Gethsemane” was magical. One of my favourite songs from the show was sung with such passion and close harmony that it was difficult to pick out a favourite. My doubts over a weak final were banished. The three gents were terrific. The standing ovations from the judges (including the good Lord himself) proved that fact. It’s a shame we didn’t get more moments like this throughout the series!

Melanie C then moved from her judging seat to the top of the staircase to perform “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” with Lloyd Webber on piano. Personally, I think she’ll make a great Mary Magdalene, her vocals are always on top form and she was a great Mrs Johnstone but judging from Twitter reaction, she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. ‘Breathy’, ‘belty’, ‘emotionless’ were commonly tweeted descriptions; but I disagree. These shows always seem to bring out the negativity associated with casting a ‘celebrity’ in a starring role. Always baffles me. But anyway, rehearsals start next week and Ben ‘can’t wait to get started’ and rehearse with Mel. Time will tell whether she can hold up such a strong and iconic role. I’m rooting for her.

Now Dawn French, I’m still confused as to why she was even asked to be a judge on the show. She is funny. She is uncomfortable. But yes, she’s funny. So I enjoyed her comedy, it lifted the somewhat sombre feel of the show.

I only wish we had a performance from Tim Minchin and/or Chris Moyles, as I’m desperate to see how they are going to fit their respective roles. I guess they want to keep some elements of the show under wraps so people will still buy tickets but I think they missed a shot at getting them two on board the live shows. Or maybe they haven’t learnt their lines yet? Either way it could have lifted the ratings slightly.

Some final comments from the judges confused me, Dawn, naturally, tried to make a joke: “if you don’t win, eh never mind”. I’m not sure this was the type of advice the contestants were after but then again I don’t think they have listened to her comments throughout the series; can’t blame them. More so it was Lloyd Webber’s admittance that “nobody is a winner tonight” - surely he meant to say “you’re all winners?” Or perhaps he did mean it and doesn’t see Ben as a ‘winner’? Rather him bringing up how well third place Nancy from I’d Do Anything Samantha Barks is doing, is his way of letting the others know that their careers are set to really begin now? Even so I found it a little distasteful to basically determine the whole contest had been useless.

The final was a lacklustre end to a lacklustre series with a few golden moments. Graham Norton was missed. Charlotte Church and Sheila Hancock were missed. Even John Barrowman was missed. I think in general it was the BBC that was missed - ITV have made it too X Factor for my liking.

Whilst people continue to complain about this type of casting show, it opens the musical theatre world to a much wider range of the general public, surely this can only be a good thing. I love spreading the joy of musical theatre to others and am a fan of such shows as they drive to do the same.

Look out for Jesus Christ Superstar in an arena tour (you did know it was an arena tour, right? Or has it not been mentioned enough?) near you soon.

I look forward to the Lord’s next search for a star - who knows who he’ll be looking for next time.

- Kieran Johnson

You can follow all our previous blogs about Superstar at Whatsonstage.com/Superstar. And be sure to check Whatsonstage.com for full coverage of the forthcoming stadium tour, including photos, videos and reviews.


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