Jesus Christ Superstar Tour 2023-24


September 11th 2023, Manchester: The new touring production of perennial favourite Jesus Christ Superstar opens tonight, with sound design by our own Nick Lidster. In this short interview he offers some insights into his work for a lengthy musical theatre tour on a weekly schedule:

The Olivier Award-winning reimagining of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s celebrated musical opens at Manchester’s Palace Theatre tonight and subsequently plays at regional theatres all over the UK until late summer 2024. Produced by David Ian for Crossroads Live and Work Light Productions, this show was originally presented by London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, another of Nick’s regular haunts (click HERE for details).

As the show opens at its first stop, Nick talks about his work as sound designer:

“This show has been produced and toured many times since the original production in 1971 and the concept and costume design for this version has been updated to give it a modern style and aesthetic. Consequently the sound design and in particular some parts that are visible to the audience have also been updated – for example, in the closing scenes where (spoiler alert!) Jesus is crucified on a loudspeaker and microphone stand.”

The vocal microphone design plays with the idea of a rock gig, as various kinds of microphones are used by different types of characters to help emphasise their roles and attitudes within the piece. Handheld wireless mics are used by Jesus and his disciples (as modern free thinkers) while other followers use head worn boom mics as part of their everyday wear, almost like Apple AirPods – they are the Instagram / X (formerly Twitter) followers if you like, then cabled mics are used by the old-school Romans and people of power.”

Much of the music from Jesus Christ Superstar is very well known and instantly recognisable – does that impact the sound design at all? “Most of the songs follow a direct story path and should sound connected as a piece. ‘Could We Start Again Please?’ is a good example as it’s a standalone single from the show – it needs to sound very nicely produced and like an individual moment of calm.”

Once a show is loaded out from Autograph’s London HQ and on the road, how does a sound designer ensure that their vision is being reproduced from theatre to theatre? “The only way is to check in periodically throughout its run and I plan to visit it first when it reaches Newcastle, its second stop towards the end of September and probably again later. This show is on a weekly touring schedule so there’s a lot of moving, a lot of logistics and a lot of variables to deal with. In some venues we’ll tie into the house system for delays if we have to but the main system should do most of the work and hopefully compromises will be limited.”

Nick’s team on Jesus Christ Superstar, responsible for delivering that show-to-show consistency, includes his Associate James Hassett and Production Sound Engineer Shane Kavanagh. Sound No1 is Jeff Thomson, ably supported by No2 Marcus Savage and No3 Nick Jarvest.

“The main difference, at least in technical terms, between designing for a tour and for a fixed-location show is that the audio system has to be modular. Every venue is different and so we need a rig that can be configured in numerous different ways to suit the room but also to achieve a consistent result wherever we happen to be. For this show we’re using a KV2 point source system, the main PA comprising ESR215s.”

You can find out everything you need to know about Jesus Christ Superstar on the show’s website HERE

Equipment summary:

KV2 EX and ES-series loudspeakers, ESP and ESR-series amplifiers

Meyer Sound UPM-1P loudspeakers

Sennheiser G4 IEMs

Shure Axient Digital wireless systems

Autograph Signature Series XMADI and XUSB auto changeover devices

DiGiCo SD10T digital mixing console

Shure, AKG, Audix and DPA microphones

Nick Lidster

Photo Credit: James Cumpsty

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