JESUS Christ Superstar director, Wayne Maloney, admits he may have bitten off more than he could chew personally in deciding to take on the famous Andrew Lloyd Webber spectacular as his debut production.
But he has two strong points in his favour. He’s never been one to shirk the issue on stage himself; doing a fine job of the plum roles Roger De Bris (The Producers), Monsieur Thénardier (Les Miserables) and Fagan (Oliver) in successive years, despite having only limited lead experience before. And he’s been able to put together ‘the A Team’ for production support. The result is that the new musical production from the award-winning Wonthaggi Theatrical Group looks like being one of the shows of the year. A sneak preview over the weekend indicates that it’s not one to be missed after it opens this Saturday night, May 24, at the Wonthaggi Union Community Arts Centre. But there’s still a huge week of rehearsals ahead of Wayne, his cast and production team. “I’ve been in lots of shows before and worked on some of the different elements including set painting, lighting etc and I’ve always marvelled at how the directors manage to pull all of it together,” said Wayne this week. “But it’s not until you’re in charge of it all yourself that you realise what’s involved. You’ve got department heads of set design, costumes, lighting, movement and dance, Rick Pendry and Pip Cleeland with their scenic painting, sound and so many other elements all wanting your input before they go ahead.” There’s also a killer rehearsal schedule for the 50 or so people on stage and just as many backing them up behind the scenes. “It’s quite incredible how it all comes together really.” Wayne says he has always loved the production since he first saw it at the Palais in St Kilda in 1973. “There are two productions that really burn through to your soul; Les Miserables is one of them and JC is the other. “I’ve seen other productions in a modern setting and I had an idea I’d like to try at Wonthaggi. Ours is based on a troupe of wayfarers going to Judea who take over an archaeological dig site with its old temple and act out the passion of Christ. “A lot of the things going on in the Middle East back 2000 years ago are still happening today, with the activists, military, religious disputes, turmoil and outbreaks of hostilities still a feature. “We’ve incorporated some of that but the amazing music and story of the passion of Christ, as he fulfils his destiny, still shine through. “I don’t think it’s been done exactly this way before so it should be a new, and we hope, exciting experience for the audience.” Wayne insists that he could not have done it without the incredible support of the production crew and experienced figures like Karen Milkins-Hendry (costumes), Kirk Skinner (musical director), Louise Adkins (choreography) and many, many others. “From day one we had a full set to rehearse on which was Tad Hendry’s doing and that has probably been the single most important aspect in getting us to where we are now. “But I just love the music as many others do as well.” Wayne has a personal memory of the first time he saw the John English-Marcia Hines’ production in Melbourne. “At the moment that Jesus cried out and died on stage, there was this almighty bang as a stormy blast from outside blew open the back doors of the theatre. It was pretty spooky I can tell you and I recently met someone else who was there that night. “I don’t know if we’ll have the doors blowing open at the arts centre this Saturday night but I really think it’s something people should get along and see, especially on opening night when there’s thrill in the air that you don’t always get on the other nights. “Opening weekend is always very important, to get the message out and we urge those thinking of coming along to book their tickets now at the Wonthaggi Workmen’s Club. “I’m confident now that we are going to have a good show but it’s been a huge undertaking, especially for me.”
Jesus Christ Superstar is a 1970 rock opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical started as a rock opera concept recording before its first staging on Broadway in 1971. It came to Sydney and then Melbourne in 1972 and 1973. The musical is loosely based on the Gospels’ accounts of the last week of Jesus’ life, beginning with the preparation for the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem and ending with the crucifixion. It highlights political and interpersonal struggles between Judas Iscariot and Jesus, struggles that are not in the Bible narratives. The resurrection is not included and therefore largely follows the form of a traditional passion play set to music. Feature songs include: Heaven on Their Minds by Judas, What’s the Buzz by Jesus and the disciples, Everything’s Alright by Mary Magdalene, This Jesus Must Die by Annas, Caiaphas, and the Priests and of course, Jesus Christ Superstar. The production continues for 12 performances over the next three weeks.