Jesus Christ Superstar’s absolutely biblical performance at The Regent Theatre

Much like how SIX the Musical taught me more about Henry XIV’s love life than my A-Level History, Jesus Christ Superstar shines a new perspective on the age-old, frequently recounted story of The Passion of the Christ – and what better time for it to make its way to Stoke-on-Trent’s Regent Theatre than mere weeks before Easter.

From the moment the opening guitar riffs of the iconic rock opera’s Overture rung out from the shadows of the stage, the audience were hooked. The wordless introduction spoke volumes, members of the ensemble appearing from every direction, immersing and immediately captivating the opening night’s congregation who had come to witness Jesus’ final days brought to life on stage.

Paul Coltas

Originally an album penned by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar was initially staged at London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in the 70s, and won the 2017 Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival, garnering unprecedented reviews and accolades for its retelling of the events leading up to crucifixion through the eyes of Judas.

Drew McOnie’s choreography is spellbinding with a charged energy that pulses through the entire performance. Dynamic and off-kilter, it’s technically brilliant and phenomenally executed, with each nuanced movement effectively channelling the emotions unfolding on stage.

As Jesus, Ian McIntosh is calm, collected and convincing, stirring up emotions as he navigates the powerful and gritty rock score. His impressive range truly shines in the high notes, balanced beautifully by Luke Street’s portrayal of Judas, whose gravelly tones are outstanding as they star opposite another in Gethsemane. 

Street’s Judas was delivered with a sense of vulnerability, which made his final scenes all the more poignant. And in his last moments, and indeed other would-be-graphic but necessary scenes, the inferred violence is intelligently undertaken, from glitter lashings to the haunting microphone swinging from the rafters.

Paul Coltas

One of the standout moments comes in the form of King Herod’s scene, delivered with wonderfully campy flair by Timo Tatzber. His burlesque-inspired number King of the Jews brings a lightheartedness to the underlying tension, and while brief, his time on stage was vibrant, playful and memorable. I’d also very much like a replica of his gold cape for my own wardrobe, please.

A special mention must also be made for Pilate (Ryan O’Donnell) with a stellar rendition of Pilate and Christ, while Jad Habchi’s alto vocals as Caiaphas were fantastic, his energy matched by Stoke-on-Trent’s own Matt Bateman as Annas, who made a lasting impression on his home city stage.

Paul Coltas

But it was Jasmine Jules Andrews who stole the spotlight as the mob leader, commanding the stage with a magnetic presence, her erratic movements and emotive delivery bringing an intensity to the stage and not once missing a beat. Together with the rest of the ensemble, their collective performance, both physically and vocally, were out of this world, especially in What’s The Buzz and Crucifixion – a scene which had me transfixed on the set, bubbling with a sense of something like guilt, for almost being complicit in the execution. That in itself is testament to how immersive this production is.

Each song is delivered with passion and precision, and while they might not be your next karaoke choice, they’re undeniably superb and tell the story in such an electrifying way. 

Under Timothy Sheader’s direction, this reimagined production of Jesus Christ Superstar is absolutely biblical. Modern, visually and vocally extraordinary, with an extremely talented cast who breathe new life into this timeless classic, you can catch it at The Regent Theatre until Saturday, February 24 with tickets available here.

Paul Coltas
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