London Theater Reviews: In the Heights and Jesus Christ Superstar

theaterlondonJesus Christ SuperStar 1127342383

About: Celebrating 45 years since Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s seminal musical first hit the stage, Jesus Christ Superstar returns to London in a powerful new production directed byTimothy Sheader. Singer-songwriter Declan Bennett, once a member of Brit Award nominated band Point Break, and more recently the lead in the musical Once, takes the role of Jesus, with Tyrone Huntley (Book of Mormon, Memphis) as Judas.With a legendary score including I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Gethsemane and Superstar, and musical direction by Tom Deering and choreography by Olivier Award-winner Drew McOnie, experience epic storytelling in the remarkable surroundings of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

My Take: Absolutely fantastic! This production, more a staged concert than a full staged production elevates what I believe is the true beauty of this show, the spectacular music score. I’ve been a fan of this show for ever, I know ever note and this brought back some great memories, especially of assisting for directing this when I was in college.
First the staging is an industrial wonder, simple yet so effective (see below). It being outside gave it extra character. The costumes were fabulous, apocalyptic at leisure wear. np really, they looked liked they walked out of a Yeezy fashion show and it was quite perfect.
The highlight of the show however are the actors,  what voices do they have!!!
Declan Bennett, who plays Jesus had a quiet strength and sex appeal (yeah I went there but come on have you seen him) that just made him magnetic on stage. His voice was also amazing. In some songs during Act 1, the falsetto notes were a bit high for him but when Gethsemane started all was forgotten and I was a convert to his voice.
Judas, played by Tyrone Huntley, had a killer voice. Power for days and raw energy that was electric. The biggest surprise however Anoushka Lucas as Mary Magdalene. Her voice is completely unique and jazzy in a way that is hard to describe. This uniqueness gave an absolute originality to some of my favorite songs and made me want to go out and get an album of hers.
This show needs to be taken on the road (or somewhere I can see it every month!), a must if you are in london! Showscore: 95

a video from their website: 

Some of my pictures:

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Pictures from the website:

In the Heights

About:  It’s different from anything else around: the style of music and the storytelling are unique. Beginning as a word-of-mouth sensation on Broadway back in 2008, audiences have come back time and time again to see IN THE HEIGHTS, a Tony award winning musical from Lin-Manuel Miranda, the man behind the critically acclaimed HAMILTON – soon to be making its West End debut. Vibrant, funny, and life-affirming, IN THE HEIGHTS explores the issues affecting society through modern dialogue, hip hop and street dance. At the crack of dawn on the hottest day of summer, Usnavi opens up his tiny bodega in his neighbourhood of Washington Heights – one bustling neighbourhood where everyone knows everybody, and the breeze carries the sweet sounds of three generations of music.. Usnavi dreams of a return to his native Dominican Republic. His childhood friend, Nina, has just come from her first year at Stanford with some surprising news for her parents, and, priced out of the ‘hood’, salon owner Daniela is packing up her sass and taking it to the Bronx. But when Usnavi discovers he has sold a winning lottery ticket worth $96,000, everyone on the block gets a dose of what it means to be home.

My Take: It’s hard to judge this production because if I had never seen In the heights before I would have thought it was fabulous. Unfortunately having the good fortune of seeing the original Broadway cast with Chris Jackson, Lin Manuel and Karen Olivo at their best it’s just hard to compare, as this is a much smaller production. It is staged in two platforms with the stage in the middle which makes it a very original staging. The cast is good and its a great revival, I just had three  mayor issues: 1. the accents (more of a pet peeve than a problem) it was a bit painful to see them butcher the spanish parts,  2. the dancing, it just was not at the level I wanted it to be – it’s not bad but it could be so much better! Also seeing the Olivier production above, the ensemble has been greatly reduced and it just seemed sparse. 3. The Benny I  saw was just not great, the one here in the video is much better, and when you have to live up to Chris Jackson, that is hard.
However the thing that hasn’t changed is that this is a fabulous show, with incredible music, that I am so glad to have revisited as I hadn’t seen it since previews in NY in 2008. Having become obsessed with the genius that is Lin Manuel Miranda, it’s a great exercise to see his early work and see his brilliance being developed, and revisit songs I love such as 96,000.
If you are in London and haven’t seen it – go! it’s a show you should know!

Score: 70

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