White Light Rocks On with Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert

Last month, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

reopened with a concert version of Jesus Christ Superstar; making it the first

major London venue to do so post lockdown. Having supplied the Open Air Season

for many years now, as well as working on a host of outdoor productions over

the past few months, WL was called upon to supply the lighting for this much

anticipated concert.






Created by the team behind the Olivier and Evening Standard

Award-winning production, Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert is a special staging

of the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber classic. Complying with government

regulations, this version is being performed in front of a socially distanced

audience in order to ensure the complete safety of everyone in attendance. And

while there has been a lot of changes to when the show played here last, the

creative design team remains largely the same, including Lighting Designer Lee

Curran who was nominated for an Olivier for his original design. He comments:

“This is the first show I have worked on since lockdown. Over the past six

months, I’ve had five shows either cancelled or postponed, one show close

early, as well as the US tour of Jesus Christ Superstar put on hold. So when I

was asked to come back and light this concert version, I was incredibly happy

to do so! That said, nothing about this has been normal. Everything

happened so fast, to the point where the time from which I had the first phone

with Tim Sheader until the first live public show was less than five weeks. As

such, there was very little prep time and decisions on the lighting plan had to

be made very quickly”.






Lee has obviously

lit this show before and his previous work has achieved critical acclaim. So

was it a case of approaching the concert version as a brand-new piece, or staying

true to his original design? He explains: “I felt

instinctively that it had to be recognisable as ‘our production’, but knew it

could never be a simple revisit for two simple reasons: one, a socially

distanced cast and two, a different set! Fortunately, the nature of the Evita

set which we were working from meant there was really only one significant

problem to solve, which was getting the backlight positions we needed for a

range of spots. I worked out a goalpost solution which got incorporated into a

larger framework that Tom Scutt designed to rise above the original band

housing.  The other factor that quickly

became apparent was how much bigger the lighting design had become since the

original production in Regent’s Park. The last three productions had been

indoors, and by the time of the US Touring production which we made last year,

every aspect of the lighting was bigger and more complicated. So picking a way

through that in the limited time we had was probably my biggest challenge”.











The other challenge was the more practical one

of having to work around the strict regulations now in place. Lee comments:

“Our Production Manager Andy Beardmore had to do extensive work on risk

assessments and systems to make everything Covid-safe. This covered everything

from temperature checks when arriving at stage door, to wearing masks at all

times when on site, to one-way systems for moving around the site. We had

medical-grade wipes and hand sanitiser at our production desks. Similarly, I

kept my own headset for comms, and wiped down my desk and everything on it

every day. There were a lot more procedures covering backstage too. Everything

from how the trucks were loaded to allow for safe unpacking and moving of gear,

to how the crew worked in rigging and focusing. And as for the choreography of

cast and crew backstage during the show, to maintain social distancing – that was an unbelievable effort by everyone involved”.






As the company moved into Tech, Lee found

himself once again focusing lights outdoors after midnight; something he calls

“the nature of the gig”. To achieve his lighting design, Lee approached WL who

were once again intended to supply the entire season pre-Covid.  He decided to draw on fixtures that he had

used on previous incarnations of the show, as well as ones he

knew he could rely on within the outdoor space. He explains: “The rig featured

a lot of Par 64s, giving us punch and energy and effects that are visible even

in matinees. Clay Paky Sharpys were deployed for beam movement and effects in a

couple of the bigger numbers. Martin MAC Viper Performances were used for

spots, and Viper DX Washes for crosslight. SGM P5s are acting as backlight

washes and lighting trees, and ETC ColorSource Spots are there for sidelight,

with a few Source Four Tungsten Profiles doing the little bit of front lighting

we have. Look Unique Hazers and Viper smoke machines gave us our atmospherics”.






Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert has opened

to critical acclaim and has marked a much welcomed return to live theatre. It

will run until 27th September.






Lee concludes: “To be making any work at all,

especially a production that we all love so much, is an incredible privilege

now more than ever. The theatre deserves huge praise for taking the risk to

produce the show, when it would be far easier and financially more prudent to

stay closed. They’ve given 140 people employment when there is precious little

else around, and they’ve offered a bit of hope to the whole industry. The

audience response has been phenomenal, and I think there have been tears

before, during and after every performance, as people process their own

feelings at simply being back in a theatre, on top of those our show evokes.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before that experience becomes commonplace once





The post White Light Rocks On with Jesus Christ Superstar: The Concert appeared first on White Light.



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