Jesus Christ Superstar is a popular and fitting musical for young people to study as part of a theatre education, but it is an ambitious move to select it as a school production. Scotch College, Adelaide is certainly not one to shy away from the challenge. Rehearsals are well underway with a production team who are well accustomed to getting the most out of their talented students. Director Adam Goodburn, Choreographer Linda Williams, and Musical Director Antony Hubmayer come together for their fourth year having already demonstrated that they can coach their students into delivering quality full scale musical productions to critical acclaim: Les Miserables (2012); West Side Story (2013); and Pirates of Penzance (2014).
Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera, which started life as a recording before morphing into a stage show; the first to be produced for the professional stage by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It is a timeless work set against the backdrop of an extraordinary and universally-known series of events, seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. Although loosely based on the Gospel, theatrical licence sees the focus on the humanity of Jesus, troubled and doubting as he is faced with the vacillating nature of those who surround him, the anguish of the woman who loves him and the complexity of emotions that lead to his betrayal.
On their decision to take on what is arguably Lloyd Webber’s greatest work, Head of Performing Arts, Antony Hubmayer says, “it’s an epic show with a suitable combination of dance, acting and singing and one that I thought the students would enjoy. The UK Arena tour was a reconnection and new imagination of the concept and I believe we have the scope of people involved in the College and the student body, to pull it off successfully”.
Certainly Scotch is fortunate to have a production team well versed in the musical. Adam Goodburn played the role of Jesus in the first amateur production of the show to be performed in Adelaide at Her Majesty’s Theatre, in 1997. That production was directed by Linda Williams and featured many renowned Adelaide music and theatre personalities including Michael Griffiths, now a popular Fringe and Festival performer who, as a regular vocal coach at Scotch, provides another useful resource. Linda says they see their prior involvement with the musical as a point of reference rather than a direct source of inspiration, “It is quite different, set in a different time”.
Of his vision for this production, Adam is drawing from many previous versions and adding new ideas. He says, “Obviously we are standing on the shoulders of great productions from the past but we are also trying to make it a unique production for us”.
The Scotch production will have a contemporary staging and 21st Century feel. The set, designed by Brian Budgen, is the biggest ever used in a Scotch musical and certainly borrows some of the open style of the 2012 Arena production, with minimal physical set changes.
Directing a college musical presents its own challenges. Some roles are double cast and others that are traditionally cast as male will be played by females; a conscious decision by Adam. On casting Herod he says, “I wanted to have a contemporary, readily identifiable character that had a lot of social influence and to do that, and achieve what we wanted in terms of choreography, we made the decision to cast a female”. In a show that traditionally only has one feature female, it also serves to create more female roles, an important consideration for which they make no apology in a co-ed school. “It is a ‘win win’ in terms of also creating opportunities for the girls to be showcased in this production”.
Participants in the Scotch production also have the opportunity to study the musical as a theoretical subject, assessable for the South Australian Certificate of Education. They study in conjunction with their rehearsals and consider in depth their role and responsibilities, be they on or off stage. As well as extending their education and further equipping them for careers in the theatre, this facilitates research into the complexities of their characters and enriches their performances, far beyond what you would expect for their years.
Senior school musical productions are often the first opportunity for young people to tread the boards and give an indication of their potential. Such is the talent at Scotch College that many of these young performers have already worked professionally and are carving a name for themselves in film and theatrical circles in Adelaide and beyond. In the Scotch production of Jesus Christ Superstar, these shining lights, coupled with what is a legendary script and an iconic soundtrack, guarantee you will be entertained, inspired and reassured that the future of musical theatre in Adelaide is in safe hands.
Scotch College, Carruth Road, Torrens Park
Season dates: July 29 – August 1, 7pm
Enquiries contact Kate Crawshaw: 8274 4210
Watch out for Brian Godfrey’s interview with Ben Francis (playing Jesus) soon.