★★★★★ | 5 out of 5 stars

It’s a story that literally defined time and yet is a modern fable: boy becomes superstar and is adored by crowds of fans who follow him everywhere, hanging off his every word.

But as his popularity soars, others become jealous and seek to destroy him until his fame becomes worn and tarnished and his every word seemingly twisted. Ultimately, he is betrayed by one of those closest to him – with a kiss no less – and the mob turns on their idol, demanding that he is cancelled.

No, we’re not talking about Justin Bieber or any other current pop star, politician, or celebrity. This is the story of Jesus Christ, the original global VIP, in the reimagined musical Jesus Christ Superstar currently showing at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne.

More than 50 years since Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice put rock into the story of the last days of Jesus’ life –  as seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot – it remains as box-fresh and relevant for a new audience as it did for fans of the original musical that debuted in New York in October 1971.

Beginning life as a concept album in 1970 that topped the American billboard charts, – knocking former Beatle George Harrison off the Number 1 spot –  Jesus Christ Superstar morphed into a fully-fledged musical. It wasn’t long before it moved to Broadway, garnering controversy as well as accolades galore.

Paul Nicholas played the title role when it opened in London the following year and a pre-ABBA Agnetha Faltskog starred as Mary Magdalene in the Swedish version, topping the Swedish charts with the iconic I Don’t Know How To Love Him in 1972.

Now the modern re-iteration, which won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival, is here until Saturday before continuing its tour of the UK – and it’s not to be missed. This is, quite simply, a heavenly production.

Directed by Timothy Sheader, the staging is contemporary while the costumes look like something Bieber himself would wear on tour. Jesus, played to perfection by Ian McIntosh (We Will Rock You and Follies) sports trendy joggers with a tight vest that shows off his muscles. With his cropped hair and chiselled good looks he looks more like Channing Tatum in White House Down than a religious icon.

Ryan O’Donnell’s uber cool Pontius Pilate sports a leather jacket and biker boots along with his crown while Timo Tatzber as Herod almost steals the show in a very fetching sequined leotard, tailcoat and platform boots that he could have borrowed from Robbie Williams’ shoot of Let Me Entertain You.

Hannah Richardson (Sting’s The Last Ship) has the vocals and acting ability to create a haunting Mary Magdalene, drawing in the audience with her beautiful rendition of the show’s iconic ballad, made famous by Helen Reddy and Yvonne Elliman.

The singing isn’t decorative as it often is with musicals. As this is a production with no spoken dialogue, the songs are the story, driving the narrative and conveying the characters and their emotions.

Shem Omari James (Dreamgirls) sets the tone from curtain up, using his vocal range to let the audience in, acting as a musical narrator until, recoiling with horror, he betrays Jesus, an act which leaves his hands and arms stained the colour of his pieces of silver.

The industrial set by Tom Scutt, with its use of symbolic scaffolding and a giant ‘runway’ in the shape of a cross positioned downstage, heightens the action as does the choreography from Strictly Ballroom’s Drew McOnie.

Every dance movement from the mob signals how they feel about Jesus during his rise, and then downfall as they demand his death. Finally, it comes – a scene that's both raw and highly-stylised in its heartbreaking conclusion. 

McIntosh’s sublime voice with its faultless falsetto portrays the agony and the acceptance of the inevitable as fistfuls of glitter depict the flagellation before he is crowned with a coronet of thorns and his bloodied and bruised body is hauled onto the cross. It’s a moment that stunned the audience into silence before they leapt to their feet for a five-minute standing ovation.

‘Could we start again please?’ Mary Magdalene asks during the incredible and time-defying show. All I want to know is: ‘Could we see it again please?’  

Jesus Christ Superstar is on until Saturday 20 April, 2024. Thu matinee 2.30pm £19 - £44 and 7.30pm £26 - £47. Fri 7.30pm & Sat 2.30pm & 7.30pm £28 - £49