The Court Theatre is bringing the most loved rock musical to the stage in their summer production of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber (famous for The Phantom of the Opera and Cats) and Tim Rice, their iconic ‘70s rock opera is still just as devastatingly powerful as when it first hit the stage.
“When Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote Jesus Christ Superstar, they nailed it first time out. Of all of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals to bring to our stage, we felt this was his most enduring and, indeed, his most exciting,” says The Court’s Artistic Director, Ross Gumbley.
Director Stephen Robertson and musical director Richard Marrett (the team behind previous Court productions such as Mary Poppins and Chicago) will be bringing a ‘70s feel to the theatre for Jesus Christ Superstar, with punk-rock meets glam-rock inspired costuming, set design and sound. With booming ballads, The Court Theatre will be thrilling audiences with a rock concert atmosphere throughout summer.
“My vision is to partially take the production back to its 1970s roots while maintaining a contemporary feel. It was written as a rock opera, so the music and sound are being designed to honour this,” Robertson says.
The story follows the last days of Jesus’ life as seen through the eyes of the disciple who betrayed Jesus and led to his crucifixion, Judas Iscariot. Through Judas’ perspective, the human soul beneath the divine icon is bared – troubled, doubting, loving and scared.
The musical depicts political and interpersonal struggles within Jesus’ story, full of contemporary allusions to modern life that keep the story relevant – and exciting – for 21st Century audiences.
“This piece is well-remembered and well-loved and we’re certainly going to make an exciting, original staging that can be enjoyed by anybody who loves the original – or wants to see a thrilling, new take,” Gumbley says.
The main draw of Jesus Christ Superstar, of course, is Webber and Rice’s iconic, powerful soundtrack.
As Gumbley says, “the whole piece is through-sung with those great, classic, soaring, ‘70s rock anthems. What’s not to like?”
The Court has compiled a group of 27 singing and dancing superstars to bring this timeless musical to life, with Gumbley saying, “I don’t know that I’ve heard a stronger singing ensemble than the one we have for Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Leading the cast is Nic Kyle, returning to The Court to take on the role of Jesus. Kyle, who was last seen at The Court in 2012’s Grease, has a historical connection to the musical, having previously played Jesus in a Timaru production of the play in 2012.
“I’m very excited to be playing this role! It’s of the most iconic and challenging roles in musical theatre and one that very few people ever get the chance to take on,” Kyle says.
Caleb Jago-Ward will be performing alongside him, playing the infamous Judas Iscariot in what will be his Court Theatre debut. Jago-Ward is known to New Zealand audiences for his appearance on The Voice Australia and numerous musical theatre credits throughout the country.
The woman tackling some of the most iconic songs in the musical, including I Don’t Know How to Love Him, is Monique Clementson playing Mary Magdalene. Clementson has performed in numerous musicals throughout Christchurch, including Legally Blonde the Musical here at The Court; Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act and Éponine in Les Misérables.
Speaking about the legacy of the show, Kyle says, “It’s the show that put Andrew Lloyd Webber on the map. The music was written in the ‘70s and it’s still as powerful and moving as it was back then. Even though we all know how it ends it’s the relationships, the love and the betrayal which makes it so engaging and keeps it relevant.”
For Kyle, his vast experience overseas has given him a new perspective for this performance – and of The Court Theatre itself.
“Having had the opportunity to live and work in the United Kingdom for a number of years, I have come to realise that The Court Theatre puts on shows to a level that you would easily see anywhere in London. Christchurch is very lucky to have actors, musicians and theatre practitioners that are of an international standard. No production will better show off this rich talent than Jesus Christ Superstar!”