Tag Archives: Sean Kingsley

Jesus Christ Superstar – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

19 Aug

Jesus Christ Superstar in an open air venue staged like a gig. The concept sounds intriguing and intrigued is what I was when I sat down to watch Regent’s Park Open Air Theate’s summer musical 2016.

First of all the set is wonderful. It’s quite simple but effective and doesn’t take anything away from the one thing that really makes this show: The cast. There’s Declan Bennett as Jesus who gives the role an almost folk-like touch. He’s the angsty leader, a saviour who has been cast in a role he did not ask for. His Gethsemane is a show stopper, sung with so much emotion it hurts the heart. On the other side there is Tyrone Huntley’s fierce Judas – furious with Jesus for not making a real difference and not standing up for himself and the people who worship him.

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Jesus Christ Superstar is a show that for me stands and falls with its two lead actors. You need a Jesus and a Judas who complement each other. And this is exactly what you get in this production. Declan Bennett’s Jesus has an almost eerie calmness surrounding him even in his most vocal moments of the show. Tyrone Huntley’s Judas on the other hand is loud and angry. It’s the perfect mix.

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The show has a strong supporting cast. David Thaxton’s Pilate is truly menacing, Peter Caulfield is possibly the most fabulous Herod I have ever seen and Anoushka Lucas is a sweet Mary Magdalene with a rich voice full of heart and soul.

Interaction between the characters seems to be missing at times possibly due to the concert staging of the show. While Jesus Christ Superstar always has a concert element to it this production goes one step further letting the performers use hand mics and even instruments on stage. At times it does feel like one after the other is coming on stage to sing a song – even when addressing another character the performer would sometimes look at the audience.

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The ensemble works hard – the times they stand still are very limited in this production. While I find Drew McOnie’s choreographie impressive and imaginative I feel there is slightly too much of it here. But seeing Genesis Lynea dance is such a treat so I am not complaining too much.

Then there is the glitter – so much of it. I am a bit torn about the use of it. While I think it is an interesting artistic choice the pure amount of glittery gold on stage seems ridiculous at times. On the other hand having a bloody, beaten and broken Jesus covered in glitter at the end of the show is a haunting image that surely leaves an impression.

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All in all this is a vibrant and imaginative new production of one Andrew Lloyd Webber’s finest (my opinion) musicals. It’s not a flawless show but the positive certainly outweighs the negative and the brilliant cast alone make this a production not to be missed.

Jesus Christ Superstar runs at Regent Park’s Open Air Theatre until August 27th 2016. For more info visit: https://openairtheatre.com/production/jesus-christ-superstar The rest of the run is currently sold out but returns may become available.

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We will rock you at Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam – 11th April 2013

16 Apr

We will rock you is without a doubt one of the (if not the) most successful Jukebox musicals of all time. The show has been running at the Dominion Theatre in London since 2002 and is now touring European arenas to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Based on the music of Queen this show is all about great rock songs and big voices. Ben Elton’s script has some funny moments, however the story is rather random and definitely not the focus main of the show. Personally I’ve always looked at We will rock you as a rock concert with a bit of a story in between. And I’m not saying that in a negative way. I used to watch this show a lot a couple of years ago and I have fond memories of my visits to the Dominion Theatre.

This tour production is scaled down slightly which is understandable. It would be impossible to tour the Dominion. There’s no trapdoor in the middle of the stage and no rotating stage lift. The lack of the latter means Killerqueen and Khashoggi do a lot of walking around on stage during “A kind of magic” which I had to get used to first – I didn’t really miss anything set-wise though.
There were a few sound issues on the night and sometimes the music drowned out parts of the singing which was a shame. However, it didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of the show.

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The anniversary tour is led by MiG Ayesa as Galileo. Having seen MiG play the part almost 10 years ago in London I have really been looking forward to catching his performance one more time. He is not the vocally strongest Galileo out of all performers I’ve seen in the part but his voice suits the songs really well and he definitely makes the part his own. His Galileo is playful and likeable. I don’t even mind that he doesn’t actually fit into the role age-wise anymore. MiG is just a wonderful Galileo with so much enthusiasm for his role and the show. It’s simply a joy to watch.

Lauren Samuels plays Scaramouche and once again proves why she received such rave reviews for her portrayal of the part at the Dominion Theatre. Her Scaramouche is funny without losing her vulnerable side and she has a beautiful and strong voice. I especially loved to hear her “Who wants to live forever” (with MiG) – such a tender moment in an otherwise rather loud and in your face kind of show.

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Sean Kingsley’s Khashoggi doesn’t stand out acting wise for me. However, I completely love his take on “Seven Seas of Rhye”. He has quite an edgy rock voice and some of the notes he hits are just insane.

My personal highlight of the show has to be Jenna Lee-James’ Killerqueen. I have been lucky enough to catch Jenna as Meat Loaf and Scaramouche when she played the parts at the Dominion Theatre a few years ago. She remains my all time favourite Scaramouche and I’m thrilled I now got the chance to see her take on Killerqueen. Jenna has a stunning voice which fits the part perfectly. Her “Another one bites the dust” is nothing but amazing and it is great to see her play the villain for a change. Until now Mazz Murray has been my favourite Killerqueen by far (and everyone who has seen her will probably agree that she was absolutely perfect in the part). But I can safely say that Jenna has taken her place right next to Mazz in my all time favourites.

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I quite like Lucie Jones’ Meat Loaf but I admit she doesn’t blow me away. She’s a good singer but I think her voice lacks a bit of power especially during “I want it all”. Next to Lauren Samuels she doesn’t quite manage to stand out.

Rolan Bell plays Britney Spears on this tour and I admit I just can’t warm to his portrayal of the part. It’s probably not even his fault as my main issues are down to the way the part is written these days. Britney used to have a bit of dignity but now the role is a walking joke. I really dislike the mocking way in which the Welsh accent is used. And the whole karate thing is just too much in my opinion.

Rob Castell’s Pop is highly entertaining. I’ve never been a fan of the part itself so the fact that I actually enjoyed Rob’s performance speaks for itself. His Gollum impression is the best I have seen and I loved his “These are the days of our lives”.

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All in all this tour is a fun night out – it has great songs, some stunning voices and is simply a great celebration of Queen. If you like the music you will enjoy the show. If you are expecting thoughtful theatre this one is not for you.

I had a brilliant time watching the show again and seeing Jenna and MiG brought back wonderful memories of my days at the Dominion Theatre. If you get the chance please go and check out this tour. It’s a great chance to see We will rock you in the original English version. And although the script has been changed quite a lot since the show’s opening 10 years ago (and not for the better if you ask me) this show still rocks!

For more info on the tour visit http://www.wewillrockyou.co.uk/tour/.

You can check out my interview with Jenna Lee-James here.