• Dress Circle Reviews

The Shows Must Go On


Photo by Gerd Altmann

In these unusual and unprecedented times we are seeing a lot of sad news of shows closing early. For many, theatre is the escape they would have turned to which is harder to do now. But it’s also great to see lots of people stepping up to help each other out. One way theatre companies are doing this is through making live recordings of shows available for free and asking for donations to charities from those who can afford it.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of those doing this, making shows free for 48 hours from Friday evenings. We wanted to write our thoughts on these but won’t give full reviews as watching at home is such a different experience to seeing a production live.

He started this with Joseph, which we missed. Since quarantine our social life has really taken off. Apparently video calling people rather than having to travel makes meeting up so much easier.

The second production, appropriately released on Good Friday, was Jesus Christ Superstar. This was the full production in the O2 arena in London, fulfilling one of Andrew Lloyd Webbers dreams of seeing it in a concert venue. You could see it would be a different experience for those watching, with the actors being projected on huge screens, rather than the more up close intimate experience you would get in most theatres.

What struck me was remembering how amazing the music is which started from the overture and remained all the way through. But we also focused on the lyrics more and could see how much it focuses on people inconsistencies. Even Jesus is shown to be an imperfect character, one of the reasons the church was so opposed to it. Maybe in this time when people are looking for political heroes, it’s a message to us all to allow people to make mistakes and learn from them and grow.

This was the all star cast with Jesus portrayed by the incredible Ben Forster alongside Tim Minchin as Judas. As Mary Magdalene was Mel C, aka Sporty Spice. This was a stunt casting which really worked, although we’d already seen her prove her acting prowess in Blood Brothers years before.

This indoor production focused on the sound of the show. The last time we’d seen this was in Regents Park open air theatre where the dancing was a focal point and it’s exciting to see the many ways this show can be done.

This was followed up on April 17th with Phantom of the Opera, the West End’s second longest running musical and Broadway’s longest running show. This showed the Royal Albert Hall 25th anniversary (of West End run) production. While we understand people like the concert versions we were pleased this was a staged version as this brings across the story more. There were clear differences and while it was disappointing that there was no chandelier crashing onto the stage there were many ways they took advantage of the larger venue, in particular with an expanded cast for Masquerade.

I haven’t noticed on stage before that some of the counterpoints are so chaotic. I’m not sure if this was due to the venue or from being a recording but these were the worst parts of the show. But when it moved onto some of the more well-known songs the vocals were incredible and you are reminded why you first fell in love with the show.

We’d love to hear about the shows you’re enjoying watching in quarantine. Be it old recordings or the new Leave a Light On concerts. And also let us know what you want to see too!

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