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BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR: THE CONCERT, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre


This special concert has been created by the same team behind the Olivier Award-winning productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical

BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR: THE CONCERT, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre BWW Review: JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR: THE CONCERT, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre Regent's Park Open Air Theatre was just one of the many outdoor venues which had to postpone an entire season of shows due to Covid-19 and Government restrictions. Luckily for theatre fans, within a matter of weeks of being given the green light to stage outdoor concerts, they announced a six-week run of Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert.

Created by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical retelling of the gospels' accounts of the last week of Jesus's life. This special concert version (90 minutes, no interval, and with a two-thirds audience capacity) has been created by the same team behind the Olivier Award-winning productions that have previously run twice at Regent's Park (and which then transferred to the Barbican Theatre last year), as well as a season at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and a three-year North American tour. In fact, the entire cast is made up of previous performers from one or more of these hit runs.

With nine performances a week, the roles of Jesus, Judas and Mary are all double cast. Tyrone Huntley and Ricardo Afonso share the role of Judas, Declan Bennett and Pepe Nufrio share Jesus, and Anoushka Lucas and Maimuna Memon share Mary. The night we saw it, Huntley, Bennett and Lucas were performing.

Huntley (who received an Olivier nomination for his performance in the 2016 production) commanded the stage from his first scene, bringing complexity to the character and making him more than just the villain of the piece. His vocal range is staggering, and he hits every high note with ease and confidence.

Bennett is the perfect fit for one of the most challenging roles in theatre. His emotional performance of "Gethsemane" was raw and full of pain, and, quite rightly, went onto receive one of the loudest and longest rounds of applause of the night.

The character of Mary has always felt slightly underdeveloped, and Lucas's soulful vocals and heavenly performance further established that. The show would only have been improved by more of her presence on stage.

David Thaxton's depiction of Pilate is almost rock god in status. He delivered heavy, thundering notes with tenderness and drama; something incredibly hard to portray, and Thaxton delivered in spades.

The entire ensemble deserves high praise too. Not only do they never miss a beat during fast-paced choreography (or let on how exhausting it must be), but produce electrifying vocals without overpowering each other, a sign of a company that really knows how to work together to produce an incredible end result. Special mention must go to Shaq Taylor and Cedric Neal, who not only take part in ensemble numbers but also play Herod and Simon respectively. Both clearly have fun with their roles, and this shines through, giving them instant charm from their first notes. Like Lucas, it just leaves you wanting to see more of them.

Tom Scutt's stage design, which has taken after Soutra Gilmour's design of last year's run of Evita at the same venue, not only fits in beautifully with the show's aesthetic, but the tiered staging also allows the performers to socially distance without ruining the pace or feel of the show. In fact, it makes Drew McOnie's exquisite choreography even clearer.

Given it's an outdoor performance, you'd expect a dip in sound quality, but this never happens, even when the heavens opened and the band had to keep playing in the rain. You can hear every note, every lyric, every beat, crystal clear. Nothing is missed and you can find yourself forgetting that you're outside.

Although this is billed as a concert, it feels like a theatrical production. There's high-quality choreography, mood-moving lighting design by Lee Curran - something that must be incredibly hard to do in an outdoor venue - memorable throwbacks to previous runs (which we won't spoil in this review!), and socially distanced interactions that feel completely natural.

This heavenly show perfectly encapsulates the power of theatre: its endurance and determination to return, and the sheer amount of talent from cast, crew, and creatives within it.

Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert is on at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre until 27 September. Book your tickets here

Photo credit: Mark Senior

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