On Saturday night I went to the opening night of Wonthaggi Theatre Group’s Jesus Christ Superstar. I am a theatre reviewer in Melbourne and I left the production feeling compelled to write a review as it was impressive in many ways. I have attached that review for you to publish if you wish.
Review: On Saturday evening I left behind the city lights and travelled south to attend the opening night of Wonthaggi Theatre Group’s (WTG) latest production, Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by Wayne Moloney.
I performed alongside Moloney in Leongatha Lyric Theatre’s rendition of the same Webber musical directed by Colin Mitchel in 2005. And so, I arrived at the Wonthaggi Arts Centre safe in the knowledge that, because of my connections with this show, it would be an enjoyable evening. Elements of the production far exceeded my expectations.
I was blown away, once again, by the remarkable set imagineered by Tad Hendry. The vocal prowess of the solo performers stood out as a highlight of the excellence this production embodied. In particular Tom Green (Jesus), whose possible youthful ignorance was forgiven or forgotten due to his honeyed and crafted vocal chords. In addition to the well-rounded cameo roles, of which this musical has many, the chorus were inspiringly committed to their parts, and their youthful spark was contagious.
I found myself wanting to be on stage, resisting the urge to sing-a-long and surreptitiously flinching at each of the thirty nine lashes.
I was swept away, along with the rest of the audience, which was deservedly one of WTG’s largest crowds.
It was more than Webber’s timeless rock opera and fantastic story that had me hook, line and sinker. It was the relentless orchestra, whose stamina was impressive. It was the infectious energy of the performers, their vocal bravado and the perfectly cast cameos. It was Moloney’s direction, which was extraordinary and inspiring, though at times challenging.
This JCS, unlike Mitchell’s neighbouring 2005 production, avoided a traditional setting and presented a very new Jesus Christ Superstar.
One of my favourite scenes from Moloney’s interpretation was The Temple. In this moment the stage is filled with representations of our sins and moral downfalls – illustrations that are relevant and modern day.
However, the sheer amount of bodies on stage was at times overwhelming and the context of the action on stage was often confusing.
I am still unsure of the exact era or location that I was transported to. Although it was clear that each element of the production: set, costume and gesture, had an explanation, the fact that it needed to be explained left me repeatedly perplexed.
However, in this way Moloney’s direction effortlessly provoked an intellectual and critical engagement with the story and action on stage.
In pointing out these complexities, the quality of this production remains clear. I am positively certain that this was one of the great local productions. It was received with joy and positivity from everyone who attended Saturday’s opening, and I have no doubt that WTG’s Jesus Christ Superstar will engage and entertain many, many more. This is a show not to be missed.
Nina Barry-Macaulay, Melbourne (ex-Wonthaggi).