On 27th September 2020, I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. It was my first time seeing a show since the start of the pandemic and my first experience of being in a socially distanced audience for live theatre. A group of seats were left empty around each bubble, meaning that there were far fewer audience members than would usually be the case, but this didn’t damage the wonderful atmosphere at all- in fact, the atmosphere was particularly exciting because you could sense that everyone else, like me, was so happy to be seeing live theatre again.
The show did not disappoint. This masterpiece by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, portraying the final week of Jesus’s life and focusing on the struggles between Jesus and Judas Iscariot, truly deserves to be known as one of musical theatre’s greats. The performers were all amazing. The ensemble were very strong, Ricardo Afonso gave a performance as Judas which really enabled you to empathise with and understand him, which is central to any portrayal of that important character in this story and Declan Bennett as Jesus was wonderful too, particularly his astonishingly powerful “Gethsemane,” which had the audience on their feet and cheering loudly. The cast was diverse and had a wide range of voices that all came together beautifully.
The orchestra and the music were also phenomenal, and the effective use of lighting, smoke and other effects in an open-air space was highly impressive. Jesus Christ Superstar is not a show which needs huge amounts of fancy staging and sets and costuming, so it worked well in this concert form.
Overall, it was an incredible production, exceptionally well performed and put together. Combining Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s classic music, fifty years on from when they were first performed, with many modern elements and brilliant choreography made it feel both fresh and powerful- a truly wonderful way to break back into live theatre again after so long.