Rehearsals for Blue Mountains Musical Society upcoming production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar are in full swing. Having both been involved with Blue Mountains Musical Society for many years, Jesus Christ Superstar is husband and wife team Jessica and Matthew Lovelace’s third show as Director and Music Director, having previously staged Sweeney Todd in 2013 and The Who’s Tommy in 2015, both to rave reviews. The couple, who met at BMMS in 2008 when Matt was Musical Director and Jess was Assistant Director of Annie, have been together for 8 years and love working on the shows with each other. Jess says, “It’s an extraordinary experience and it’s so wonderful to do it together. We met working on a musical, and his talent, attention to detail, and ability to focus are what attracted me to him, and they continue to impress me.”
When asked what made her want to direct Jesus Christ Superstar, Jess said “it takes a story that is incredibly well known and influential in Western culture and turns it into a relatable story about human beings.” The complexities and potential for open interpretation of the characters makes for a show that is a director’s dream, “rather than being a black and white, good vs evil tale, it shows exactly how even if every single person is trying to be the best they can be and do what they believe is right, it can still end in disaster.”
The 1970 rock opera is loosely based on the Gospel’s account of the final week of Jesus’ life. Creating a controversy at the time of its release, the musical focuses on Judas as a protagonist and explores the complicated relationship between Judas and Jesus, aspects which are not present in Biblical retellings. The representation of Jesus as a fallible man led to the show being condemned by some religious groups and it even being banned at some points. Lyricist Tim Rice was quoted as saying, “it happens that we don’t see Christ as God but simply the right man at the right time at the right place”.
Australian audiences may be familiar with the 1972 cast recording featuring Jon English as Judas, but arguably more famous is the 1992 production featuring John Farnham as Jesus, Kate Ceberano as Mary and Jon Stevens as Judas, the recording of which stayed at #1 in the Australian charts for 10 weeks after its release. The musical features crowd favourites ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’, ‘What’s The Buzz?’, ’Heaven On Their Minds’, and ‘Superstar’.
Faulconbridge resident and primary school teacher Sarah Namdar is taking on the role of Mary, having most recently played Consuelo in West Side Story after playing Christine in Phantom of the Opera. The role of Judas is played by Aarin Starkey, who most recently for the society played Harmonica Player in The Who’s Tommy, and Jesus is being played by stay at home Dad Nathan Hodge. Playing the titular role is described by Hodge as “a daunting and emotional task”. Despite the challenges presented by such a demanding role, Hodge is excited for the show, saying “the music alone is worth coming for, but I am so pumped by our costume and makeup design”, adding “we have a super talented cast and the story is timeless”.
The featured cast are supported by a talented and rather large ensemble of almost 60, including a children’s ensemble of 15 drawn from up and down the mountains, many with several years of experience in BMMS productions including Cats, The Who’s Tommy and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The show opens on the 20th May at the Blue Mountains Theatre in Springwood and marks the society’s 75th production since its inception in 1981.
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