Immersive productions of
Jesus Christ Superstar
in Churches and Cathedrals
The Reputation People,
83 Princes Street,
Edinburgh, EH2 2ER
Thursday 26th August 2021
Thunder, lightning and howling winds lit up Manchester Cathedral as
ALICIA certainly lived up to its billing as an “Extraordinary rock opera and an entertainment experience”.
The venue could not have been better as the beautiful Cathedral instantly became part of the production set.
The sound echoing around the venue coupled with the amazing lighting gives the show a great platform.
We were told to “Expect the Unexpected”, and this production certainly did not disappoint.
Scenes came to life from different areas of the venue albeit they often climaxed on the central stage.
The musical direction is as you might expect from Tim A.Duncan, creative, original and of the highest quality. The singing throughout is sublime and undoubtedly influenced by Laurie Ashworth’s excellent vocal coaching.
The knitting together of great rearranged rock numbers was a clever and original way to tell this story which has a hidden meaning and as such can correctly be described as a parable.
The creators at Beyond Theatre say that most of us have been in a “Dark Hole” at some time in our lives and their story shows how self-belief, faith and loving support can create a new and better destiny.
Alicia is born into a bad crowd who use their evil influences to scare the local villagers into believing that they possess magic powers. Alicia grows up with the single wish to ‘Get out of that place’ and start a new life away from this unpleasant surround. Alicia’s self-belief and herself ‘Across the line’.
Seeing Alicia’s happiness, even the darkest characters decide to follow her stance.
Alicia is played by Maria Nielsen. She gives a very credible portrayal of a gentle but determined young lady looking to reshape her life. Her admirer, Validus (Thomas Morris) grows closer to her in the second Act sensing that the time is now right for love to substitute fear and despair. Mallum (Victor Michael) and Tenebris (Hayley Maria) play two evil characters that are enticed by Alicia to change their ways. Their performances of Paint It Black and other numbers take “Singing sinister” to another level. By using their perceived wicked powers, these two characters command respect amongst the locals and both certainly appear to enjoy playing these dominating roles. Ignisum (Phil Gault) uses his prophetic foresight to both predict and help steer the story. This pivotal role gives Phil an opportunity to allow all to enjoy his baritone singing and commanding acting.
The choral support is one of this show’s main assets. The eight members of The Coven are worth listening to in isolation and fortunately we all could do just that as a string of powerful and eerie songs are staged as individual choral pieces. A nice additional contribution to the choral work is given by singers from the YSBD music academy allowing some youngsters to experience participation in a live musical.
They certainly won’t forget this entertainment experience in a hurry and bluntly neither will its audiences.
ALICIA REVIEW 27th August 2021
Manchester Cathedral, Victoria Street, Manchester M3 1SX
Thursday 30th September 2021
"Alicia" by Beyond Theatre
This is a bit of a strange one which you may need a few songs in to actually "get" what is happening, but once in, the story isn't too hard to follow. Set in Cornwall in 1565 Alicia has been brought up in a village where fear and the supernatural is practically the law, a bit like "The Crucible" in its' feel. There is an atmosphere of evil, echoed by the first few songs, "Season Of the Witch", "I Put A Spell On You" and "Fire". Ignisium acts partly as the narrator and throughout Act One we feel the darkness of the life that surrounds Alicia and her village.
Come Act Two, Alicia has fallen in love with Validus and there seems to be ripples of light, and a distinct lighter feel to the music with Alicia letting Validus know her feelings for him in the song "The Power Of Love". Alicia seems to be breaking free from Tenebris's clutches and influence and the evil feel ebbs away. A feeling of positivity and love also seeps into Tenebris, the Witch character as well as the equally nasty persona of Mallum, who seems to be infatuated with Tenebris, and all five characters join as one in the finale of "A Whiter Shade Of Pale"
This is a really interesting concept but without the free programme, some people may just have a problem working out who the characters are and their relationships with each other. Thank Goodness for the programme which explains the characters and how they all fit in.
I know that the definition of a "rock opera" is practically continuous flow of music throughout, and so this does fit that description, but I'd also describe this show as a gothic jukebox musical because, apart from some original chants, all the songs are well known pop and rock songs.
What i loved about the way that they were used was the arrangements of these songs. Most were stripped back, some with lush orchestral arrangements. I adored the slower arrangement of "Black Magic Woman" and especially the quasi-classical arrangement of "Paint It Black" as a duet with Tenebris and Mallum, a merging of the male and female evil and powerful characters.
AJ LeRoy played Ignisium, and the joy of immersive theatre is that it allows him to pop up at various points within the marquee. His voice is unique and his look memorable. AJ's version of "Fire" was so different to any that I heard by Arthur Brown, and loaded with warning!
Marie Nelson is Alicia, and this is her leading debut. Marie looks comfortable on stage and has a strong powerful voice. She needs it with some of these belters that she has to sing. from the gentle, and quite eerie "Ring Around The Rosie" to the soaring "I Believe I Can Fly" and the duets with Validus in "Power Of love" and the beautiful "You're The Reason".
Hayley Maria gets to play the nasty Tenebris. She is intense as she slinks around the stage and outer performance area, making occasional eye contact with audience members as she sings "I Put A Spell On You", making your blood chill with the intensity of her character. Hayley has a couple of brilliant duets within this show, the first I mentioned was the haunting "Paint It Black" and the second was a duet with Alicia with "Feeling Good" which really highlights bot incredible and powerful voices. You can really tell that Hayley is classically trained form the control and power in her vocals.
Thomas Morris, who plays Validus, at first glance bears more than a passing resemblance to James Arthur, but Thomas' voice is so versatile, and although a respected tenor, his falsettos are chillingly good. This also shows a certain vulnerability within his character. his version of "The Sound Of Silence", in the style of The Disturbed, spreads an air of unease around, and as mentioned before, his duets with Marie are simply sublime.
The final main cast member is Victor Michael, who plays the powerful and nasty Mallum, who also finds a melting of his heart in Act Two. Another classically trained singer who excels in the dramatic delivery of a lyric. His stage stalking performance of "Black Magic Woman" gives you the creeps, but in a nice way. His other main number "White Room" also delivers the drama.
When all five team up for the final piece "A Whiter Shade Of Pale", along with the choir, it is like a tsunami of sound hitting you, the power created by these performers is like G Force body blow.
The Musical Director, Tim Duncan, did an amazing job with these songs, really bringing out the drama within the lyrics and presenting them in a completely different way. You just have to listen to "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" which really shows the longing to escape where these characters are at. The arrangements would make a brilliant soundtrack album for this show.
Great costumes, a powerful sound design and production, atmospheric lighting, and with the rain and wind outside rattling the marquee, we had a natural sound addition to the whole show, which all added to the creepiness of the tale.
This production grew on me the more I was drawn into the story and the song lyrics. Lyrics I had heard many times over the years but tonight took on a more sinister feel.
The production was a one night only chance to see "Alicia" but is now touring, and I am really pleased that I was asked along as part of the eerie love story ride.