Barbican Theatre, London – until 24 August 2019
Back for its third triumphant year, the Regent’s Park Open Air production of Jesus Christ Superstar is exciting, vibrant fresh and thrilling. Originally released as a concept album, Timothy Sheader’s production strips Superstar back and puts on a glittering and compelling performance which lets every aspect of the show shine.
Of course Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock score is the heart of this production, with huge belters from the two Js Jesus and Judas, and more soothing, lighter numbers from Mary Magdalene. However, it’s Drew McOnie’s choreography that really elevates everything about this version of Superstar. Each riveting moment is sharp but free and grungy at once. The frenetic energy flits between excitement, fury, trance and sadness and creates a pulse which sizzles and entertains throughout.
What’s particularly striking about this show is the mob mentality of the followers and apostles of Jesus. Turning on a dime to support and then attack Jesus, there are very few loyalties when peer pressure gets overwhelming. Emphasised even further through Lee Curran’s lighting, it’s equal measures devastating and thrilling.
Robert Tripolio’s Jesus is charismatic and obviously troubled as he pours everything he has into his preaching, but is exhausted and alone as he privately questions his destiny on earth. His storming vocals are the perfect balance of sincere and shocking and his hugely dramatic death, manages, in a strange way, to resonate, and his heartbreakingly truthful performance of Gethsemane in act two enthrals the audience. Ricardo Afonso is a complete superstar as Judas, played with a ferocity which is electrifying. Again he shows off the versatility of his voice but is most vibrant in his bold, angry moments. A real masterclass performance.
Matt Cardle comes to life in act two whilst Nathan Amzi and Cavin Cornwall provide entertaining vocals throughout. Samuel Buttery brings a comic relief which suddenly turns brutish in his excellent portrayal of King Herod. The ensemble are a body of their own as they pulse across the stage with an energy and intensity that jumps off the stage.
Without a weak link, the performances are consistently full-out and electrifying. This team work as one throughout and give a continually flowing show.
This is a thrillingly furious, highly millennial production, in which miraculous performances are given and striking images resonate long after the curtain falls.
photo credit: Johan Persson