Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jesus In A Jar

Conrad Charlton is not only the finest composer working in musical theatre today, he is surely one of the medium's great lyricists. "Igneous Heart", the love theme from his first major production, the fantasy-cum-romance Quarry: The Musical, contains, in this writer's view, one of the finest evocations of physical and emotional love yet penned for the stage:

Down in the Earth where they breed the monkeys
Who ride the bicycles

That power the moonbeams

An igneous heart has solidified

Yes, from your molten flesh

That special heart derives

Even decontextualised thus, Charlton's lyric retains its passionate intensity, its subtle yet unmistakable power. Charlton may be a fantasist, but his knowledge of the realities of the human heart is very great indeed.

Charlton's recent run of hits looks set to continue with his new show, Jesus In A Jar, which opened last night at Her Majesty's Stage Place in Sydney. Jar, as it is affectionately known, tells the story of Ronald Cowes, a lonely young man seeking what all lonely young men seek: love, success, a clear complexion. One day, lolling in his parent's backyard, Ronald makes an incredible find: a tiny man professing to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. Acting swiftly, Ronald traps the alleged Messiah in a jar, thinking to make a wish-granting genie of his diminutive prisoner. Charlton, as one would expect, provides a rousing tune to accompany the moment:

I've got you trapped!
And now you're mine

You'll do my bidding every time

I've got you trapped!

And now you're mine

Yes you're my Jesus in a jar!

Cowes and Jesus then embark on a series of adventures, by turns hilarious and poignant. Jar's organisational binaries - good and evil, captive and prisoner, short and tall - allow Charlton great satirical scope. Songs such as "Christ On a Bike" and "Jesus, If You Pleazus" are merry yet pointed digs at the commodification of religion, while "When You Wish Upon a Jar" takes in everything from the war on terror to the dearth of decent alternatives to Tupperware.

From start to finish, Jesus In a Jar is a joy. Daryl Somers excels as the tiny Jesus, while Tod McKenny returns to the stage after his recent stint in prison for armed robbery with a performance as Ronald Cowes that is both believable and detestable. Overall, the production is one of the most professional I have seen in years, right down to the complimentary Jesus lollypops handed out during intermission. One could expend a good deal more ink describing the manifold pleasures of Jar, yet as is often the case with Charlton, his own lyrics say it best:

Miniature nose
Miniature robes

Miniature beard

It's miniature weird!

It is also profoundly moving. Bravo.

1 comment:

LadyCracker said...

Morning Sterne

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