Friday, July 22, 2016

Theatre: Jesus Christ Superstar





One of the many, many things I love about living in London- yes, I know we all complain about the city from time to time/pretty much daily, but it's pretty awesome overall - is the sheer range of things available to do and see. Whatever your passion is, from food to wine to modern art to trapeze, there will be plenty of it here in the city. As I mentioned in my post last week, one of the things I love the most is musical theatre, and London never fails to delight with the range of shows and productions available to enjoy. If I had an unlimited budget and a free schedule each evening, I'd be in theatres pretty much non-stop, enjoying the many ups, downs, and beautiful moments which a musical production can bring.

In my post last week I was getting very excited about go to the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre to see Jesus Christ SuperstarThis has long been a favourite musical of mine, and when I saw that it was to be produced at this jewel of a theatre nestled in the heart of one of my favourite London parks...I snapped up tickets immediately. JCS is both a great show and a tricky one to stage well, so as the date approached I was filled with excitement and not a little nervousness. The songs in this show are like old friends, and I was hoping that the production would do them justice.

It turns out that my nerves were for naught. This production of Jesus Christ Superstar is imaginative, vibrant, and moving. In the outdoor setting the show feels intimate and involving - without the barriers another theatre would provide, the cast feel accessible and the connection you feel as an audience member is rawer, realer. As we entered the second act the summer night began to draw in, and the fading of the light as the story reached it's peak added an extra note of sombreness and pathos to proceedings.

The production team have created a beautiful version of the show. From the laidback costuming with a nod to the R n B style of the nighties and noughties (at points the ladies of the ensemble looked like All Saints or Destiny's Child, cool and edgy, a pleasant change from the usual costume decisions made in this production), to the industrial set softened by the greens and browns of the surrounding trees, it all felt organic, innovative. Timothy Sheader's direction and his use of space and minimal reliance on props or special effects leaves the stage clear for some real emotion and resonance. Tom Deering's musical direction is crisp and concise and the band were tremendous - on stage at all times and at times being a real focus. Amongst all this greatness, I also adored Drew McOnie's choreography - modern, interesting, with nothing I've seen before in JCS. The rounds, where moves spread through the pack, were excellently executed and really gave a sense of the fervour and contagion amongst the mob.

There were plenty of good performances from the capable cast, but four great ones which have really stuck with me. Declan Bennett as Jesus interprets to role in a fresh, introverted way - as the Last Supper unfolds there's a real sense of the sorrow and conflict within. His Gethsemane may lack the showstopper high notes of some former Jesuses (Jesi?), but it's moving in its desperation and its sheer humanity. 

As Pilate David Thaxton is an utter scene stealer - all Brandon Flowers styling and emo turmoil, it's a big, brave take on the role. Pilate feels like an intelligent, flawed, worried man, a chess player who can see the moves unfolding long before they are played. I loved Thaxton's interpretation and have been thinking about it frequently in the week since I saw the show. On the other side of proceedings is a character entirely convinced of his rightness and of what he needs to make happen, the Pharisee Caiaphas. Here I enjoyed Cavin Cornwall's combination of cunning, intelligence, and those rumbling basso profondo notes.  

The absolute showstopper though, was Tyrone Huntley's Judas. His performance was searing, dark and vocally amazing. Every time he sang the audience was rapt. Whether pacing the stage like a panther, calling out Jesus for perceived hypocrisies, or reflecting on his role within a bigger, more eternal plan, I could not take my eyes off him. In a great cast and company he commanded the stage whenever he was on it.

While not perfect (what show ever is?), this is gritty, wonderful, soaring theatre. If you can get a ticket I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, along with the rest of the audience. Rarely has a standing ovation felt as natural as it did after last Saturday's performance.

Jesus Christ Superstar will play at the Open Air Theatre until the 27 August.




30 comments:

  1. I really want to go to the open air theatre as I've never managed to go there in London. This sounds like a really good show x

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    1. It's fantatstic. I'm very excited because their next porduction is Pride and Prejudice, another favourite!

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  2. I really want to go to an open air theatre. I don't think we have any round here though.

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    1. It's such a lovely way to spend an evening, particularly in this current weather!

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  3. So glad you enjoyed it! The open air setting sounds awesome too :)

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    1. It was soooo lovely, Milly, and much cooler than an enclosed theatre in this heatwave, too.

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  4. Sounds like it was a great show, I'm glad you enjoyed it! There's a open-air productive of The Hobbit in my local park, I'm gutted I missed out on getting tickets for it!

    Jess xo | The Indigo Hours

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    1. Oh what a shame, I'm sure that'll be fab!

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  5. I bet it was amazing in the open air, sounds like you had a great time x

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    1. I really did, thank you - love a good bit of theatre!

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  6. I would love to go to something like this x

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  7. It sounds like a good play. I heard it has some great music in it.

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  8. I am so jealous of those who can easily get into London for shows. I have never been to a proper musical. I have seen some great plays at RSC Stratford Upon Avon but I am a musical fan and I NEED to go see a musical in real life. This looks fab I would love the open air theatre!

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  9. My eldest daughter loves Musical Theatre and I have promised that we will go and see ore, looks like this one may be on our list!

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  10. Oh wow, I've never been to an open air theatre before but I absolutely love the idea, especially on a warm summers evening xxx

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  11. This sounds fantastic. I like the name a lot.

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  12. I really want to see Jesus Christ Superstar as I am a bit of a West End Buff but that is one I have not managed to see yet.

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  13. Open air theatre is one of the best things about Summer.

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  14. I've never been to an out side theatre it sounds amazing! Sounds like you had a great night k x

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  15. There seems to be a lot of outdoor theatre at the moment, it's becoming more and more popular! I've just been to see a production of The Hobbit outdoors! I'd love to Jesus Christ Superstar though!

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  16. I love drama and going to the theatre, but have never been to an outside one! This looks great x

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  17. I havent been to the open air theatre in years and I love going, so this is a great reminder x

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  18. I love living in London too and that you have access to some great shows. Not been to an open air one yet.

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  19. Oh this makes me so jealous - I would love to be able to visit any of these shows in London! H :)

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  20. I really enjoy going to the theatre but I've never gone to an open air one! Looks brilliant!

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  21. I love the open air theatre, its such a great atmosphere although I do love the theatre in general xx

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  22. This sounds absolutely amazing and I would love to go and see it! I love open air theatre, and this performance sounds fantastic

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  23. I remember seeing Jesus Christ Superstar about 18 years ago at the Grand Theatre, never thought it would still be coming on nearly 20 years later. Get to see a lot in Blackpool

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  24. They're building an open air theatre near me and I can't wait to go. I've been to an interactive theatre before and the atmosphere was amazing, it's always how I imagine this would be

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  25. I've always wanted to go to an open air theatre or cinema. Looks great!

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Thank you for your comment - I do read them all but it may take me a little while (a couple of days) to respond during busy times. I love reading what you have to say!

Have a wonderful day!

Hi, I'm Claire...

Hi, I'm Claire...

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

If you'd like to work together, or if you'd just like to say hello, my email is: countrymouseclaire@gmail.com

Please note that on occasion affiliate links may be used in this blog. All items received for review or paid posts will always be disclosed.

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