Review of ITV1’s Superstar – Jonathan Ansell is more of a Judas than a Jesus and we preferred the Andrew Lloyd Webber shows on BBC

by Matt D

There are some programmes that I feel have been talked about for months before they finally appear and Superstar is one of those shows. If you’ve been living under a rock it sees Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber try to find a leading man for his new arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar which already has a big name cast attached to it including Mel C, Tim Minchin and err… Chris Moyles. Despite casting Radio 1’s most notorious DJ, Lloyd-Webber describes the casting process as deadly serious as he could make the career of one of these young men or at least they could follow in the footsteps of Joseph star Lee Mead and marry the female member of the panel, so maybe if their lucky Mel C will be looking for a new man.

Yes Mel will be judging the early stages of the contest, later to be replaced by Dawn French, while Lloyd-Webber’s producer mate David Grindrod is also present as is Jason Donavan who presumably had nothing better to do after the Strictly Come Dancing tour finished. Amanda Holden is the host and though she didn’t appear this week still provided the opening voice-over something I feel that X-Factor’s Peter Dickson should’ve done to make Superstar sound more important than Holden managed to do.

The first stages of Superstar saw Lloyd-Webber and Grindrod whittle down all the auditionees to a more manageable 100 a process which seem to involve hearing these people sing a couple of lines from a popular song before being discovering whether they were moving on to the next stage. One of the biggest news stories surrounding the programme was that both men and women were allowed to audition however it seemed that the females were dismissed with fairly quickly it’s as if they were just there to create a news story or something. Right from the start we were told that one of the most vital elements that the final Jesus must possess is the ability to sustain a falsetto long enough to hit the high notes in JCC’s most famous number Gethsemane. As we saw a number of men attempt this tricky note I couldn’t help but notice how much it resembled the opening strains of the famous Bodyform advert jingle, but maybe that’s just me.

What felt like a thousand falsettos later we were down to 104 finalists who were transported to the 02 Academy in Brixton for the three judges to make their minds up who they wanted to ship to a desert island for some intense training. While Mel, Dave and Jason were watching on stage his lordship was, somewhat creepily, holed up in a small room spying on the candidates and making notes on his i-pad which he then shared with the rest of the panel. Like with all of the talent shows this segment saw the awful auditionees sing out-of-key but was mainly reserved for the more interesting performances most of which were from men who made it onto the island. There was builder Steve who rocked his way through an AC/DC number impressing neither the judges or me and my friends watching at home however he was given a second chance to impress in the final forty. Conversely Matthew a proper gent who bore a striking resemblance to The IT Crowd’s Matt Berry, especially in his first audition where he was dressed in a suit, but more importantly was a fairly good singer however wasn’t given a place. Other notable auditions came from retail worker Sam who had grown a beard against the wishes of his employers who obviously run an establishment for clean-shaven staff members only as well as camp Holiday Camp singer Jon Moses the latter was probably put through due to his biblical surname.

Then there were The Rock Tenors a four-piece male vocal group who all had great booming voices perfectly made for this role however in true talent show style only three of them made the cut following them warbling their way through Bon Jovi’s greatest hits. After ages of keeping us waiting it was revealed that poor unfortunate Gareth wasn’t going to make the cut and instead was going to resent his three bandmates for the rest of their natural lives however this was good news for colleague Nathan James who had already been rejected earlier this year on The Voice UK after no-one turned round for him during the blind auditions. The most memorable audition of the night came from another reality show cast-off this time Jonathan Ansell of X-Factor series one runners-up G4 as he warbled his way through Somebody to Love it was only afterwards that he made the shocking announcement of being attached to another show. It seemed that he was fighting a losing battle to keep his place on the show as Donavan argued about how great his loyalty would be to Jesus Christ Superstar were he to be cast, however he was put on hold for the time being and we never got to find out whether he made it through or not. In my opinion I wouldn’t cast him as Jesus but rather keep him as an understudy to Tim Minchin because his willingness to abandon his friends makes me believe he would make an excellent Judas.

The fact that a sub-standard pop-opera singer’s work commitments were the biggest talking point coming out of episode one tells you all you need to know about Superstar. To be fair to the programme it didn’t present itself as a reality show in the Simon Cowell mould there was no studio audience, no nastiness for the sake of it and no changing the song mid-audition. What Superstar basically boiled down to was a televised audition process to cast a musical a mundane affair that wasn’t really jazzed up to any large extent indeed it came to something when even Lloyd-Webber himself became so bored he forgot to appear at the end of every audition maybe he’d snuck off from his little room to do something much more interesting. I was a fan of Lloyd-Webber’s other audition programmes however to me Superstar lacked the slick production values of the BBC shows, while Amanda Holden’s voice didn’t make things seem as important as Graham Norton’s used to. As the programme is airing again on Sunday night I suppose it may be a little unfair to judge this as a one-off, because I’m sure the island boot camp will be a lot more entertaining, but I have to say that Superstar didn’t get off to a heavenly start but thankfully there’s still room for salvation.

What did you think to the first episode of Superstar? Did all of your favourites make it through the first round? Leave Your Comments Below.