I had booked the tickets for two friends, my husband and myself ages ago to see JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice in 1971 at CURVE in Leicester. No, I have not missed a word out it is not ‘The’ Curve, but simply ‘CURVE’, now try to talk about it without saying ‘the’ – impossible! Woe betide anyone putting a ‘the’ in front of it when in Curve building itself. See even that sentence begs to have a ‘the’ inserted. I digress.
My friend Karla and I had been
to the Curve there before, the last time to see Rocky Horror Show, that’s another story in itself, and she also works there on an adhoc basis and that is also another story in itself, so we like theatre. I must add here that she is also part of the production team at Market Harborough Theatre, so knows a bit about theatrical performances. I am digressing again.
The words Amateur Operatic Society never made any impact on us when we booked the tickets, because after all this production was at CURVE and they are up there darling with the best of theatres. My other friend Sheila loves musicals and knows ever word to the songs so she understands a thing or two about performances. Hubby, well he is from Essex and LONDON is where he used to go to see shows so is used to the originals by the best performers.
Hang on there, before you think that this is going to denigrate the LEICESTER AMATEUR OPERATIC SOCIETY it is not. HOWEVER, sadly it was not their finest hour. Set in modern day the stage set was metal steps either side the stage towards the back as a V shape, with a triangle of light panels at the top which was lit to highlight the performers when they were at the top. As always a live band played down in the pit in front of the stage. Sitting comfortably in our generous seats with plenty of leg room – well done CURVE, we were excited to enjoy the evening. This is about the appalling sound levels set by the very professional team at Curve who somehow ruined the show by their negligence.
Karla turned to me and said “I hope Jesus is a tall dishy looking guy” or words to that effect, I agreed, there is nothing wrong with eye candy especially with a voice. Lights down, and there were people rushing back and forth on the stage – not sure what that was about but it was part of it, then Judas Iscariot came on and screeched his way through the opening song; he did have a high voice, but the level of the music was so high it did not help. Hmmm okay. Others joined him and I wondered which one was Jesus, and realised that the guy who was nondescript with short hair and very little stage presence was him. Again when he sang his voice was drowned out by the enormous sound of the band. Mary Magdalene was excellent, she had a lovely voice and very good stage presence and her solos were gratefully heard amongst the music. At times the music drowned the singers, at times the singers appeared to be screeching to be heard above the far too loud music. How could CURVE sound engineers get it so WRONG?
Despite the sound levels being so wrong, it was an entertaining evening not least because of the cast themselves. They gave their all but looked utterly defeated when taking their bow at the end of the performance, as sadly, the polite applause throughout the musical was not what they hoping for. I think a lot of family were in the audience cheering on the final applause but there was no second curtain call at the end.
What was so entertaining was that my friend Sheila sang most of the songs with a good voice! There were two very elderly gentlemen in the cast either dressed in suits that could have fitted better (when you are on the vertically challenged side then long jackets make you look like you have no legs), and then as policemen who looked like they should have retired 20 years previously! I kept noticing a senior lady appearing in the cast and then disappearing, obviously a valuable member of the singers, she was unable to take part in the dancing so disappeared from stage. At the end in shiny dresses they descended down the step singing and bless her, there she was struggling to get down each step with the others. Jesus was put on a cross with a bicycle saddle to sit on, very ingenious, and the cross was raised and fastened to the floor, by several people including one of the stage production engineers who came on complete with walkie talkie fixed to his belt etc, thank goodness he matched the cast who were all wearing black trousers and hoodies at the time.
Please don’t think I am making fun of all of this because this is exactly what I love about amateur productions. I love how it is not the perfect beautiful people who are allowed to be stars, I love how anybody and everybody has a real part to play. I love the rawness of the production. My disappointment is with THE CURVE who clearly let these singers down by failing to take them seriously. If they had done they would have made sure the sound levels were good.
Hubby left after the first half and did not return because he could not cope with the sound, as did several others. He waited outside, had coffee, walked around the corridor in the round building, and met a critic who had come to review the performance, who was equally appalled at the incompetence of the sound engineers to get the sound levels right. As we left we saw him talking animatedly to a member of the production team.
I would REVIEW this by saying I had a great fun evening, I enjoyed their efforts – WELL DONE Leicester Amateur Operatic Society.