REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar – Regent Theatre – Stoke-on-Trent


It is probably safe to say that there are not many members of the audience at a production of Jesus Christ Superstar who do not know the plot of the show in its entirety: alongside the Nativity, it is a story that most of us learn in primary school.  However, this production takes the familiar story of the last days of Jesus Christ and offers a different, deeper perspective.

Taking the lead from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s heavily rock-influenced score, the production has a distinctly stadium tour feel, right from the opening single spotlight on the solo guitarist.  Floodlights pulse in time to the music, searchlights light up the auditorium and key moments are backlit through a haze of smoke.  The band overlook the action from the back of the stage, half hidden in the shadows of a claustrophobic, dystopian set.  Most of the cast forgo the usual hidden headset mics and instead use handheld performer’s microphones to play into the aesthetic, working the placement of stands and the handing off of microphones into an impressively fluid choreography.  There are just occasional moments where it feels a little forced – often when one or other of the leads picks up a guitar and starts strumming along without apparent reason and despite clearly being overdubbed from the band – but overall the effect is a dark, brooding but high-energy atmosphere that gives the perfect backdrop to the heightened emotions of the story.

Although the set changes only minimally throughout the production, there is still plenty to feast your eyes on onstage.  For example, one can quite happily get lost in a game of “spot the hidden crucifix” – between the set and the choreography I lost count somewhere in the twenties.  I also particularly enjoyed the nod to Leonardo da Vinci during “The Last Supper” and the use of Roman statue masks, looming stark white out of the darkness of the set.

As one would expect with a production of this calibre, the entire cast deliver exceptional performances.  Credit must go to the ensemble, who never miss a beat of the high-energy choreography and deliver the frenetic, fanatical energy of a crowd on the brink of becoming a mob. 

The cast are led by two absolute powerhouse vocal performances from Ian McIntosh as Jesus and Luke Street as Judas.  Both performers are able to blow the roof off the venue with some truly outstanding rock tenor high notes (“Gethsemane” is a particular highlight) and yet there are beautiful moments of delicate control and emotional vulnerability too.  They make incredibly difficult performances seem effortless.  Aside from the vocal fireworks, McIntosh’s portrayal of Jesus seems a little aloof to begin with, but this only serves to heighten the impact when the cracks begin to show in Act 2.  Street, in contrast, plays Judas with his heart on his sleeve right from the start, which does a great deal to humanise an often-maligned character.

Matt Bateman as Annas, Jad Habchi as Caiaphas and Timo Tatzber as Herod are gleefully, deliciously villainous, and their glam rock performances give the costume department a chance to shine, both literally and figuratively.  Meanwhile, Hannah Richardson does a fantastic job of taking the character of Mary Magdalene (who has the potential to come across as clingy and frankly a little tedious) and turning her into a dignified, supportive figure and an emotional counterbalance to Judas’ more erratic relationship with Jesus.  Special mention should also go to Jordan Michael Todd, whose evangelical performance in “Simon Zealotes” kicks the whole production into high gear, and to Ryan O’Donnell, whose understated and poignant performance of “Pilate’s Dream” gives nuance to Pilate’s ultimately doomed attempt to save Jesus from the mob.

While there may be no surprises in store for an audience who knows the plot, there are plenty of delights in this clever, thoughtful performance.  It is no wonder that this long-running production has garnered so many accolades: you will definitely come away viewing this story in a whole new light.

Jesus Christ Superstar plays at the Regent Theatre until 24th February 2024 and then continues its UK tour. Tickets available here.

Photos throughout from Paul Coltas.






One response to “REVIEW: Jesus Christ Superstar – Regent Theatre – Stoke-on-Trent”

  1. Sherryn Middleton avatar
    Sherryn Middleton

    Just spectacular! No words will do it justice! Go and see this performance!!! amazing voices! Amazing musicians ❤️

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