Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1971 rock extravaganza, originally conceived as a concept album, has been resurrected in a vibrant and contemporary fashion for this 50th Anniversary tour. In 2016, this production premiered in London at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, and in 2017, bagged the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival. Easy to see why.
Though the story may be timeless, sometimes the pitfall of a classic is its firm moorings to the period of conception beyond which the music and dazzle is unable to transcend. Luckily, this revival breaks free from such burden, in no small part due to the impressive performances of not just James Delisco Beeks as Judas, and Aaron LaVigne as Jesus, but also the exuberant multi-ethnic ensemble buoyed by the rhythmic, mesmerizing choreography. Lest we forget, Paul Louis Lessard’s devilishly campy, glittery turn as King Herod is perhaps the highlight which overshadows even the crucifixion.
The set design is sparse and industrial with the band lodged inconspicuously in the second tier of the scaffolding; and the muted yet elegantly flowing costumes look straight off the runaway. At roughly 90 minutes, and without a pesky intermission, the musical takes on a firm and unrelenting grasp on the audience till the very end.
— G. Dhalla