16 year old Scotch College student, Ben Francis, is about to play, perhaps, the most important musical theatre role of his life – that of Jesus in Scotch’s production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.
Ben first started performing in England at the age of four and, since arriving in Adelaide, has played everything from Aladdin (Aladdin Jnr for Adelaide Youth Theatre) and Snoopy (You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown – Adelaide Youth Theatre) to Diesel (West Side Story – Scotch College) and Peter Pan (Peter and Alice – Independent Theatre Company at the Space Theatre). Now Ben is about to tackle what he feels is the most demanding role he has had to play.
Of the role, Ben says, “It’s a lot of pressure because it is such a vocally challenging role. I am the only one at Scotch who has the range – it goes up to a very high B Flat (B Flat 5) and then falsetto. So it is just me! The role couldn’t be double cast and there is no understudy.
“You have to put your heart and soul into the role. This is what all the leads are doing in this production. In fact, the energy levels are so high that they are infusing the younger cast members with the same energy and enthusiasm.”
Ben sees Jesus as, “being sent by God to tell the Truth. He doesn’t really think of himself as a hero. He gets followers because of what he’s saying and people want to listen to him. He doesn’t act for the crowd, but rather acts because of the crowd. The power isn’t in it for him – he doesn’t care about the power. He just wants to spread the message of love and God to as many people as he can. That’s how I’m playing it.”
Scotch College don’t do the normal ‘school production’. The three years previous to this production have seen the College mount full-scale versions of Les Miserables, West Side Story and Pirates Of Penzance – all to critical acclaim and all with the same experienced production team: Adam Goodburn (Director), Linda Williams (Choreographer) and Antony Hubmayer (Musical Director).
“Because Scotch is a Performing Arts school and therefore the students in their productions have a performing arts background, performing in their productions lays the ground work for us to call on in the future. I think the opportunities they give us are good and we can run with them. I’ve got a lot out of this production and the previous ones to set me up with a background in various styles to help me with going forward in my career further down the track.”
Ben’s enthusiasm and love for performing shows is obvious when one is talking to him.
“We get to the stage where it’s a good production and then, because we are all into the performing arts, we love putting in the extra work and tidying bits up. We are all happy to do that.”
With a set that includes a tree “strong enough to hang a car from”, spectacular lighting, and special effects involving make-up, this Jesus Christ Superstar promises to certainly be no ordinary school production.
Interview by Brian Godfrey
Scotch College, Carruth Road, Torrens Park
Season dates: July 29 – August 1, 7pm
Enquiries contact Kate Crawshaw: 8274 4210