WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre RUNTIME: 90 minutes (no interval)
WHEN?: 16/8/20 (matinee), until 27/9/20
The simple fact that this concert version of this venue’s award-winning production has made it back to the stage at all when most theatres have been closed since March is reason enough to celebrate.
- Read on for reasons including how we saw Pepe Nufrio (pictured) and Ricardo Afonso in the lead roles
The last live theatre we saw was a preview of a show in March which never actually opened (City of Angels at the Garrick) and this afternoon it’s amazing to be reminded after such a long time away why theatregoing is such a unique experience.
We have our temperature taken on the way in and entry is forbidden for those registering 37.8 degrees C or higher. Masks must be worn throughout the visit and the capacity of this atmospheric open air venue has reduced from 1,256 seats to 390 to allow for social distancing. An additional 5,000 tickets are available for some performances on the venue’s lawn in front of a giant screen.
We’re here partly because we’re big fans of Tyrone Huntley (watch him below, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre, and Leave To Remain at the Lyric, Hammersmith) and this was the show he won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Emerging Talent when he originated the role in 2016, a performance which also earned him an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical and WhatsOnStage Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical.
However, the lead roles have been double cast to enable the nine shows a week to go ahead without a hitch and we have the pleasure of seeing Afonso as Judas and Nufrio as Jesus.
The weather forecast was for rain as we took our seats at this outdoor venue and although there was light drizzle throughout it was actually cooling on a muggy day and in no way detracted from the performance.
Maimuna Memon is a strong Mary and her emotional I Don’t Know How To Love Him is one of the highlights as is Shaq Taylor’s over the top King Herod’s Song. Cedric Neal also memorably steals the show during his turn in the spotlight. Nufrio’s Jesus sings well and he brings a sensitivity to his role while Afonso’s Judas is suitably brash.
We’re not big fans of Lloyd Webber’s (although his Evita at this venue last year was a triumph) and what’s memorable here are the fine cast in a socially distanced performance that is far more staged than the Les Miserables concert we saw almost a year ago. The story is based loosely on the Gospels’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life.
Genesis Lynea is particularly striking in a scene when she is torturing the topless titular hero using golden glitter to leave marks on his body and the silver paint covering Judas’s hands is visually memorable during the betrayal.
Nufrio holds his microphone stand, complete with gold mike, behind his back to complete a crucifixion pose at the show’s close and this has been an entertaining reminder of how good theatre can be at a time when it has been missing from our lives for too long.