Ian McIntosh freely admits that he will be channelling his inner rock star as he takes to the stage in Manchester for the opening shows of a brand new touring version of Jesus Christ Superstar.

He’s certainly had some great first hand experience of the rock world having previously toured in The Commitments and starred as Galileo in We Will Rock You, the musical based on the songs of Queen and which Queen guitarist Brian May was known to appear as a special guest from time to time.

Lancashire Telegraph: Ian McIntosh

For Jesus Christ Superstar, Ian is playing Jesus and he’s fully-aware of the responsibility that brings.

“When I got the part and I told people I’d be Jesus you could see the look on their faces like ‘wow, that’s a big ask’,” he said. “But this production does not have Jesus as someone in floaty robes talking to God in the sky. He’s very much a rock superstar rather than a Jesus star if that makes sense.

“He’s the lead singer in this really cool indie band who are just about to become massive.”

The show which opened in Manchester this week will head off on tour around the UK virtually for the next year.

It is a new production based on a reimagining of the hit musical by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“The piece was reimagined for the Regent’s Park Theatre and that’s where the whole rock band and using hand held microphones thing came from” said Ian. “Our show is a hybrid of that, the version that went to the Barbican after Covid and also the American tour version from last year. Plus we have added some other elements too.

“It’s very cool and it’s very contemporary. There are some incredible dance scenes within the show and we have this great ensemble who are very much the heartbeat of the whole piece.

“Then me as Jesus, Shem (Shem Omari-Jones) as Judas and Hannah Richardson as Mary weave in and out around them.”

Jesus Christ Superstar was credited with being one of the first true rock musicals and Ian is determined to tap into the show’s origins when it comes to the songs.

“We’re trying to get that real Seventies feel,” he said. “I want that raw sound which featured on the soundtrack album that Ian Gillan from Deep Purple sang on in the early Seventies.

Lancashire Telegraph: American production of Jesus Christ Superstar

“But it’s not about me showing off vocally, it’s about allowing the story to come out through the music - and the music is amazing. I think it’s the best musical that Andrew Lloyd Webber has written.”

The show will also allow Ian to do something new on stage.

“I get to play the guitar on stage which is not something I’ve had chance to do before,” he said. “The song Gethsemane begins with me just playing the guitar before I really let go with the voice, it’s pretty cool.”

Jesus Christ Superstar opened this week after several weeks of rehearsal.

“It’s great to be finally out of the rehearsal space and to be able to see the show in its entirety,” said Ian. “In rehearsal you are working with lines drawn on the floor to show you where things will be. It’s not until you see the set, the lights and get the musicians on stage - the show has a 10-piece band - that it all totally makes sense.

“You finally have the full palette at your disposal - actors are just one part of the story we are trying to tell.

“It’s like your playground but then I’ve been given keys to the playground my whole life; I’ve never grown up. That’s what’s acting is all about. Geting paid to play for a living.”

As well as The Commitments and We Will Rock You, Ian has also appeared in Beautiful The Carole King Musical in the West End when he was nominated for an Olivier Award for best supporting actor. He has also appeared in Follies and An Officer and a Gentleman.

For many audience members, a major attraction of Jesus Christ Superstar is the appearance of Julian Clary as Herod.

“He’s brilliant,” said Ian. “Off stage he’s very quiet but is always happy to chat.

“I have a scene where as Jesus I have to kneel before him the whole time. He’s there with this massive gold cloak and he has these Julian Clary-isms - it tickles me every time. I have to try very hard to keep a straight face seeing as he’s sentencing me to death!”

Ian hopes that the show will appeal to a varied audience irrespective of any religious beliefs.

“If you are religious there are things within the scenes which you will most certainly recognise and I hope you feel we have done the story justice,” he said. “If you’re not religious, it’s a rock and roll gig and the music’s brilliant.”

After Manchester, the musical will go on tour for virtually a full year.

“I’d been on tour for a couple of years with previous shows,” said Ian, “and I’d thought that I’d probably not do that again for a while.

“But then this huge juggernaut of a show came up - it’s Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar; I get to play my guitar on stage. There were just too many good things for me not to do it.

“It is a massive production to go into regional theatres. I know I’d buy a ticket if I wasn’t in it. It really is something.”

Jesus Christ Superstar is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday, September 23. Details from www.atgtickets.com