Jesus Christ Superstar in Bristol

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.

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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.

20 thoughts on “Jesus Christ Superstar in Bristol

  1. My favorite musical too – I can sing along with every word also. I love the contemporary touches you describe. Especially the placard. How was Herod dressed ?

  2. Oh I didn’t know that those can be so expensive. That sucks! In Hungary tickets are surprisingly affordable but there is general lack of good shows… Glad that you enjoyed the musical 😊

    • It’s certainly way too pricey for us as a family of six. Even cheap seats on Broadway would be at least $100 each. Ouch. My oldest son went to a Broadway musical with school a couple of years ago and my second son goes with school in June so at least the kids are getting that experience one way or another. Meanwhile we will look at other regional productions.

  3. Local theatres can be absolute goldmines. So happy that you came on such a great production. And the “updating” sounds terrific – selfie sticks and golf!

  4. We enjoy regional theatre productions – this one sounds fantastic. I love this musical as well, have seen a contemporary version too a few years ago and was impressed. Ticket prices for the big shows are just ridiculous now.

    • Part of me wonders if regional and amateur theatres are raising their standards because audiences are growing as a response to the extortionate ticket prices of the big shows. We need to get on the mailing lists of lots of local theatres and see what comes up when. I’d love to go to the theatre more often. When I was teaching High School in England, I used to take classes to see shows in London all the time.

  5. I can recommend Act II in Ambler. And Allen’s Lane Theater at the art center. And…consider college productions. I know that Arcadia puts on plays and you pay about $5 or $10, I think. Penn State Abington as well.There are also free productions going on through the year, smaller scale things, too, plus music events. And then I’ll mention high schools. You’ll be very surprised at the level of professionalism, I think, and prices are also reasonable. I love going to plays myself and we have a lot of theater around. I’m really glad you liked this production, I haven’t been to this venue myself although I know Bristol.

    • Thanks for all those suggestions. It was a college production of The Nutcravker that we saw a couple of years ago. We are totally open to college and amateur productions. I just need to get on the mailing list to find out what’s happening when.

  6. I grew up on JC Superstar, too, and although I eventually rejected religion, I love the 60s/70s rock-opera music of this musical. Know it by heart, too, and saw it performed (last time) in Manila, very faithful to the original. Darwin, alas, is to hokey for such things, they get very low attendance, even when tickets are being given away, so must productions give us a miss…instead we have, this May, an I ❤ the 90s concert with Vanilla Ice, Salt & Pepa, and a bunch of other names that I don't recognise. I mean, nice if you loved the 90s music scene, and better than nothing, but musicals have so much more substance, and are renewed with every new cast, beats watching a plump, aging has-been pop star try to ride a wave of nostalgia. LOL

    • I’m a life-long atheist so it’s not the theology that draws me in. It’s the music and what it says about humanity. Mainly the music. I don’t care for any other Lloyd Webber musicals (though I’ve seen a few live) but there’s something about JCS that’s drawn me to see several productions.

      A concert of 90s has-beens is pretty hysterical. I wouldn’t part with my money to see that either. I’m definitely not nostalgic about that decade either and most definitely not it’s music. I grew up in a place where there was no culture of live theatre, opera, dance, or even much music outside the traditional Scottish stuff. I understand your frustration.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. I love musicals, always have. Am passing my love on to misses 9 and 11 but you are right – the cost is insane. Especially in Sydney, where I live, the cost of all 4 of us going to The Lion King or similar would prob be around $500 (abt $USD380).

    • I do understand the staging a show is a massive investment but the cost per ticket is just way too prohibitive to make it accessible and that’s a shame. My husband and I used to see lots of big London shows by scooping up standby tickets but logistically that’s just not an option now that we have kids as the chances of getting a block of tickets seated together – or even in two groups of three – is minimal. So for now regional theatre it is. I’ve got myself on a bunch of email lists and hope more shows that will appeal to us all will crop up.

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