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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, The Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

Timothy Sheader’s powerful adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar arrived at The Regent Theatre, in Hanley, this week. Introduced at Regent’s Park in 2020, this reimagining brings a new contemporary edge to the musical, pitching its rock opera status closer to a rock performance than a traditional stage show.

With a stripped down, moodily lit set defined by a huge crucifix lying diagonally across it and pared back structures putting the band on the stage, the focus in firmly on the music.

To that end the vocal performances define the show – and they are excellent. Ian McIntosh as Jesus, in particular, is fantastic, working through the stages of adoration, betrayal, fear and acceptance. McIntosh puts in a flawless performance, playing the role of the humble yet magnetic leader to great effect.

Delivered entirely through song, the vocal performances are essential to the understanding of the story – which is clearly well known. This is perhaps where this approach falters a little as the diction is, at times, difficult to follow, leaving the audience to piece together what is happening from existing knowledge rather than the story being told on the stage, although this did improve in the second half.

One exception to this was Hannah Richardson as Mary Magdalene, who delivered a moving portrayal with pitch perfect clarity to engage the audience – I Don’t Know How to Love Him, in particular, was a highlight of the show.

Issues with the clarity aside, the performances were excellent – the singers were all superb. Luke Street as Judas, Matt Bateman as Annas, and Ryan O’Donnell presenting Pontius Pilate as a man who cannot escape making a terrible judgement. Cutting through the darkness of the story, Timo Tatzber as King Herod gives an interlude of light relief, cast in gold lame, veering through his opinions on Jesus with an edge of psychosis.

Built up through the disciple/ leader format of the first half, the send half of the show, builds to a powerful end with McIntosh giving a masterful performance of Christ facing his fate with stoicism in the face of horror. The lashes of the whip are delivered with glitter thrown at his blood-strewn body, creating a remarkable effect, while the dark, pared back setting gives the crucifixion a haunting power.

Greeted by a rapturous standing ovation, the power of this version of Jesus Christ Superstar to move people is clear, while the vocal performances are outstanding. Blasting through the songs that tell the story of Christ, this edgy, rock take certainly brings something new to the show.

Discover Sheader’s take on Jesus Christ Superstar at The Regent Theatre, in Hanley, with tickets available for shows running until Saturday, February 24th. Book online now.

CNM

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