White Light rocks on with Jesus Christ Superstar
Friday, 18 September 2020
jesus-christ-superstar-the-concert-1-c-david-jensenJesus Christ Superstar: The Concert will run until 27 September (photo: David Jensen)
UK - 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 (a full technical report will be featured in LSi October). 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.
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.”
A major challenge was 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. Claypaky 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.”
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 again.”
(Jim Evans)

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