A Superstar in Armidale
By Eden Campbell Before snippets of the Armidale Drama and Musical Society’s ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ were unleashed on the public eye for the first time, director Cathy Archer took to the stage to deliver some notes and disclaimers regarding the performance we were about to see: the full lighting scheme would not be revealed, costuming would be kept under-wraps until opening night, and most poignantly, the rock-opera would be set in a local, near future setting—try Armidale, 2016, far from the sun-scorched deserts of Jerusalem one would expect. Jesus Christ in Armidale; the idea of applying such a modern setting to a play shrouded in biblical content runs the risk of detracting from the full intended intensity of the story. Yet Archer’s company exhumed such high energy from the moment they stepped on stage, this ‘risk’ was rendered benign.
With the cast emerging in theatre blacks for the opening scene “Ho Sanna”, it made it difficult to place the show in any distinguishable era; however, the likes of industrial props, such as towering scaffolding, as well as the inclusion of a group photo (taken on a smart phone) fluidly weaved its way into the scene’s choreography. A modern setting was made all the more evident with presumed antagonists dressed in riot squad police uniforms, ‘fighting’ against the opposing choir of worshippers, who at this point, had begun to incorporate the twirling and whirling of rifles in to their up beat dance routine. Ultimately, painting a picture of a 21st century street riot, rather than a religious congregation.
The sense of collective energy was almost contagious as the company played, sung and danced their way through two scenes. The cast’s ability to bounce off each other’s cues was very polished; especially considering that they haven’t even had their first public performance yet. This never-miss-a-beat energy made it impossible for audience members who were already familiar with the play not to sing and bob along to the soulful, rock and roll styling of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Entwining physical elements of the 21st century human condition with an off-centred tale on the most well known prophet in Western history is a difficult task and calls for appraisal. Cathy Archer’s company truly delivered in their preview performance of Jesus Christ Superstar. Selected scenes were showcased to entice potential audiences into seeing the full play, and this objective was perfectly executed—the crowd left smiling and one couldn’t help but overhear buzzing, autonomous expectations of great things to come as the theatre emptied and the foyer refilled.
The show opens of Friday, the 20th of June and closes on the 5th of July. Tickets are $30 for Adults, $25 for students and concession holders and $20 for children.
Contact Neil Horton on 02 6772 2512
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My name is Eden Campbell and I am studying a bachelor of Media and Communications, with a major in writing and publishing. I love music, fashion and theatre and am hoping to one day, channel these passions in to a writing career in the field of contemporary arts.