Theatre Review: Jesus Christ Superstar @ The Regent

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Photo Credit: Paul Coltas
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

Jesus Christ Superstar is one of those iconic pieces of musical theatre that just has to be seen. Its arrival at The Regent Theatre has been eagerly awaited and there can be no doubt that this production is not an anti-climax as it left the audience agog on leaving the Theatre as the wonders of what had just been witnessed began to sink in.

Hard to imagine, but the show almost never got made. The whole idea that arose from the minds of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber was shunned by the financial backers some fifty years ago as the plot that covers the final two weeks of Jesus’ life was seen as far too controversial.

It took the release of one of the first concept albums and its massive sales to convince the theatre world otherwise and the rest, as they say, is musical theatre history.

Under the direction of Timothy Sheader, this production has far more movement and choreography than seen in previous versions and Choreographer Drew Mconie has made the stage a swirl of magical movement to accompany the magnificent score.

This is a sung-through rock opera with no dialogue in between the musical numbers. Some in the audience mentioned that this caused some difficulty in following the action. However, even a rudimentary knowledge of the Gospels allows the storyline to be easily followed as we track the closing stages of Christ’s life.

We are taken through the torment playing through the mind of Judas (Luke Street) as he has doubts over the leadership of Jesus (Ian McIntosh) that leads to Iscariot being persuaded by the Priests Caiaphas (Jad Habchi) and Annas (Matt Bateman) to accept the bribe of silver that will forever taint his hands and lead to his grisly end.

Jesus has a patchy following with some of his disciples being less than solid in their support.  Peter (Joshua Hawkins) thrice denies his leader and the only constant support comes in the dubious form of prostitute Mary (Hannah Richardson).

The second Act is totally absorbing as the adulation shown towards Jesus melts away. There is the emotive Last Supper, the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Arrest and trial as Pilate (Ryan O’Donnell) washes his hands of the situation and Jesus is mocked by Herod (Timo Tatzber) before the finale of the 39 lashes and Crucifixion which leave nothing to the imagination but are superbly staged.

The vocal talents of the cast are truly out of this world. McIntosh has a superb range, Street is extremely convincing as a tormented soul and Tatzber puts in an outstanding performance as he tortures the doomed man with his mockery. The whole cast is note-perfect and no more than Richardson. Her solo of I Don’t Know How To Love Him brought the house down.

With a superb set designed by Tom Scutt, lighting by Lee Curran and a band under the direction of Michael Riley the whole production of Jesus Christ Superstar is not only a delight for the eyes and ears. It is a blessing for the mind, heart and soul.

Do you have to be of a religious bent to enjoy this sumptuous production? Not at all. Just sit back and wallow in the feast of music and movement that is presented to you. This divine show is as relevant and entertaining today as when it was first performed and was loved by a near-capacity audience. Don’t miss out on a heavenly experience.

The production continues until February 24th and has a running time of 1 hour 55 minutes including interval. For ticket information contact atgtickets.com/stoke.