When we emigrated to America in 2013, one of the things I was excited about regarding our new location was the access to the theatre. We were in the suburbs of Philadelphia which gets lots of touring productions of big shows in addition to its in-house theatrical companies and we are an easy day trip away from New York city. Ultimately, however, we have not been able to take advantage to all of these theatrical opportunities. The thing that has thwarted us is the cost. Even for the touring productions, the ticket prices are too far out of our budget – especially since, of course, we need six tickets. Some day I hope we can go as a family to take in a Broadway show but for now, pity though it may be, that is out of reach.
We, therefore, have been looking at local, regional theatre. When we saw that the Bristol Riverside Theatre had a production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, we leaped at the chance to take the kids to see it. Mr Pict and I both love musicals and, though I am not generally a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work, I have loved ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ since I was a child and would borrow the vinyl album from the library. Mr Pict and I can both sing all of the lyrics of the rock opera from beginning to end, we know it so well. In addition to wanting the kids to experience a musical they know well live on stage, it felt like a very relevant musical to take the kids to see given that one of its most prominent themes is political activism and fighting for an agenda you believe in in adverse, hostile circumstances.
We arrived early to pick up the tickets from the box office and that was ideal as it then afforded the kids the opportunity to burn off energy just outside the theatre before we took our seats.
We were blown away by the production. From the instant the actor playing Judas starting singing the first song, we knew it was going to be a great experience. Every single actor was fantastic, giving dynamic, emotional performances and belting out songs with really strong voices. As with the other productions of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ that I have seen live, the staging was minimalist but very effective. Costuming was contemporary, with Jesus something of a hipster being followed by trendy believers with selfie sticks. There were sly but not overbearing or disruptive allusions to current affairs to drive the thematic relevance of the musical. For instance, Pilate was dressed in a business suit and was ready to play golf during his meeting with Jesus, a follower was wielding a “Make Jerusalem Great Again” placard, and Mary Magdalene removed her wig of straight, ombre hair to reveal her natural curls beneath. It may not have been Broadway and may have been on stage in a local theatre but it was the by far the best production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ that I have ever seen – including a production in London’s West End. Further, I would say it is among the strongest productions of any musical I have seen on stage and I have seen a good few.
So we may not be able to access Broadway shows for now but we will definitely continue to explore what is available for us to see as a family through regional theatres and we won’t feel short-changed in doing so.