Jesus Christ Superstar the Concert: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
23rd August 2020
With theatrical performances of any kind being closed since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic it is an absolute joy to be at any production let alone the award-winning Jesus Christ Superstar! The outdoor performance is billed as a ‘concert’ but it is much more than that. It is an experience. Featuring award winning iconic choreography from Drew McOnie, lyrics and music by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber and an insane cast made up predominantly from previous productions this is a show not to be missed!
The opening bars are iconic enough to make the hair on your arms stand to attention but in this adapted performance the actors emerge, faces covered with rags and face masks, and the crowd launches into spontaneous applause as the overture reaches its climax and the face coverings are dramatically removed. The metaphor is triumphant and emotional. Theatre is back!
Social distancing has meant that the show has had to adapt slightly but it loses none of its impact. The clever blocking and choreography means that the actors are in their own space and yet part of the group at all times. Movement around the stage is carefully considered to maintain safety at all times but it feels organic and natural. Some iconic parts, such as Judas’ kiss and the crucifixion, have had to be changed but actually feel fresh and new. The changes to the show do not take anything away from the story, still conveying the drama, tension and emotion throughout. Every measure has been taken to ensure the safety of the cast as well as creating a spectacular performance.
As mentioned before, the majority of the cast have been involved in the production since it’s debut at Regent’s Park in 2016. The main three characters, Jesus, Judas and Mary are played by six performers meaning that each performance is different with each actor bringing their own take to the character. During this performance, the role of Jesus was played by Pepe Nufrio. The power in his voice and his conviction is excellent and during ‘Gethsemane‘ he comes into his own leaving the audience spellbound. Ricardo Alfonso plays Judas, reprising his role from last year’s performance at the Barbican where he received rapturous acclaim and quite rightly so. His voice is perfect for the role and he portrays Judas’ inner torment exceptionally. Genesis Lynea’s dancing as the mob leader is captivating and Cedric Neal’s rich vocals are utilised as Simon. All of the cast are excellent and are clearly over the moon to be on stage again when almost all theatre is currently still at a standstill.
The simple set by Tom Scutt, is similar to the set used for Evita at Regent’s Park last year (Soutra Gilmour) and works perfectly to allow for social distancing and also means the audience can see everything. The show uses very little in the way of prop and set pieces due to the social distancing measures but fans of the show will be pleased to learn that some iconic elements of this particular production of JCS remain. The costume, designed also by Tom Scutt, remains unchanged. Considering the production was quickly put together after Government changes meant outdoor performances were allowed the producers and Regent’s Park Theatre have pulled out all the stops to put on a full scale show.
Social distancing means that the theatre itself is running on 30-40% capacity (only 390 instead of 1,256 audience members). Far less than any theatre can run to even break even. Theatre is just not financially viable at the moment and it’s hard to see when it will be able to resume, and what the long term impact may be to our wonderful industry. However, Jesus Christ Superstar has shown that the Arts have passion, purpose and a place in our society! Theatre is more than just entertainment. It provides escapism, education and enjoyment. We all need to work together to ensure that the Arts survive this pandemic and with passionate creative teams like this willing to take a gamble and put on shows then there is hope for the industry yet.
Jesus Christ Superstar the Concert is playing at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until the 27th September. For information and tickets click here.
Photo credit: Mark Senior