JUST when it seemed the last Hosanna might have sounded for the stage version of this much-revived 1970s musical, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have come up with a 21st Century version which rocks us from Passion to Crucifixion.

Director Laurence Connor runs a flight of brutalist stairs down the centre of the stage and sets his Biblical tale against the political backdrop of modern-day England, opening with the recent riots and embracing Twitter, newsreel, video-reporting and even the muchderided gameshow phone voting process.

“King of the Jews, fraud or a lord, vote now,” demands demonic DJ Chris Moyles in the perfect guise of the bombastic King Herod, the gameshow host from hell.

Mel C shone as the tattoed, rastahaired, streetwise Mary Magdalene with the act one masterpiece of I Don’t Know How to Love Him to deliver to a near sell-out Geordie crowd.

Tim Minchin was simply superb as the character we, the audience, definitely don’t know how to love, the historically suspect Judas. The talented comedian, composer, songwriter, pianist and singer is your man if you want someone to rock our socks off with the song Blood Money.

Against this star-studded cast, Wearside newcomer Ben Forster put in an outstanding performance as Jesus. Other noteworthy efforts came from Alex Hanson, as cowardly Pontius Pilate, and Pete Gallagher, with his bass-voiced high priest Caiphas.

A fantastic night, with a TV talent showinspired audience seeing stars on all sides and offering a welldeserved standing ovation at the finale.