Lloyd Webber and Rice’s shows still reign supreme in London, and their latest revival of Jesus Christ Superstar is enjoying a second stint at the Open Air Theatre after last year’s sell-out run. The show undoubtedly holds a contemporary gaze over the original story but champions the rock opera making this production one not to miss.
Jesus Christ Superstar communicates the beginnings of the Easter story with a focus on Judas’ perspective of events. We see Jesus’ fame and following anger Judas, leading to the betrayal and eventual crucifixion of the Christ, all set to a dazzling rock soundtrack.
Timothy Sheader’s vision is so centred on the show’s rock origins that the music takes centre stage. Not only do the band command this great score, but the themes are woven into the production. Microphones, speakers and instruments form vital elements of the story; Judas’ noose and the cross itself in a haunting finale. The use of shine and glitter to signify sin is brilliant and lasting. Lighting, sound and set design come together with direction in this expertly thought-out piece of theatre.
The choreography puts the ensemble at the heart of the show. The repetitive, copy-cat canon of movement truly reflects the effect Jesus had on his followers, and subsequently the effect they had on his downfall.
With such a strong base to work with, the cast only heighten the show’s merit. Tyrone Huntley (Judas) performs with such passion and outstanding vocal ability. Heaven on Their Minds sets the tone for the production and his standard of performance doesn’t falter one bit.
Declan Bennett’s (Jesus) Gethsemane is not quite the highlight of the show in comparison. Although thematically it’s nice to incorporate the guitar into his performance, I feel the role in general isn’t suited to Declan vocally, despite some nice acting at times. The power just isn’t there in the high notes which is unfortunately something that has become expected from a production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Collectively the cast and ensemble are unquestionably talented. Maimuna Memon (Mary) provides some lovely moments and Peter Caufield rightfully delivers Herod’s shockingly contrasting highpoint. Phillip Browne (Caiaphas) and Sean Kingsley (Annas) really understand the priests’ role and give fantastic performances.
The outdoor setting is perfect for this skilfully crafted production, the product of a creative team with collective, expert vision. Talented performances reflect the raw, rock-centred concept. Dramatic, compelling and performed with conviction – this is a must-see highlight of the summer season.
Tickets are available directly from the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, with best availability from 28th August. Must end 23rd September.