Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Major Role for Summerside Area Resident in Jesus Christ Superstar

A number of Summerside area residents have been commuting to Charlottetown all summer rehearsing for what is the must-see production of the season for those who enjoy theatre, for those who appreciate music, song and dance, and for those who reflect on the meaning of Jesus, his passion, and the Christian story.

It is an incredible opportunity to be a part of the most audacious production of the Tim Rice and Lloyd Webber duo, says Shirley Anne Cameron the music director and Summerside area resident. In the early 70s it was a production that made us feel cool to be Christian. Today it is still a hip musical! 


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  <td>Members of the Cast</td>

  <th class=“thbgpc”>Much of Jesus Christ Superstar deals with the tension between Judas and Jesus.

(left to right) Albert Kays plays Judas; Valerie Moore one of the apostles’ wives; Marie Campbell plays Mary Magdalene and Jeremy Hickey plays Jesus.</th>

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Gerry Gray, ACT’s co-producer for Jesus Christ Superstar, recognizes the significant commitment of Cameron and others from outside of Charlottetown. “As the musical director, Shirley Anne has an amazing amount of responsibility. On top of this, I recognize the extra effort that is required to travel to practices. She and the cast and musicians are doing a great job. It’s going to be a stirring performance.”

Some of the other performers from western PEI include Mark Ramsay and Ken Gay playing apostles, Carl Phillips as a priest, Debi Voye - woman, and Sandra McNeill as a member of the crowd. Other westerners are members of the 15 fifteen piece orchestra that accompanies the 45 member cast.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a production of ACT (a community theatre) which is an amateur association promoting community theatre on PEI. Now in its tenth year, ACT has successfully advanced community theatre across the Island. Superstar is ACT’s 25th performance.  Superstar is another enjoyable theatre experience in a long-line of productions presented by ACT, which has included Gilbert and Sullivan musicals and most recently T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral.

The show-savvy people who’ve been watching the rehearsals are excited: this musical is a dynamo still as fresh and vibrant as when it was written and composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Superstar is being staged by ACT (a community theatre) at Confederation Centre of the Arts, November 4th to 6th.

Superstar is as powerful today as it was in 1970 when the hit challenged people’s views of musical theatre, and their understanding of the Christian story. Nowadays church groups often put on Superstar as it continues to call us to question our understanding of Jesus and the passion.

The social commentary of this musical captures the hearts of all generations. In Jesus Christ Superstar, Webber and Rice touch universal themes: non-violence, social justice, political activism, deceit and treachery, real politick, and inspirational leadership. People continue to tackle these subjects making this a great show in any decade.

But, it is also the music that people find stirring. Who can’t sing at least a few words from Mary Magdalene’s moving “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”? There is a great variety of all kinds of music, much of it beautiful and inspiring, from chant to jazz and ragtime, haunting ballads and moving choruses. The music and lyrics continue to transcend generations, with both the young and the older being powerful followers of Superstar.

The story of Jesus touches deeply raw emotions and beliefs. Christians and non-Christians alike continue to ask questions about the historical Jesus. Recently many experienced Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Jesus Christ Superstar is a similarly powerful depiction of the final week in the life of Jesus. The depth of emotion and meaning in the lyrics can be contemplated over and over again. 

Surprisingly Judas, and not Jesus, is the central figure in the play. Judas, disillusioned, does not believe that Jesus is God. He feels Jesus’ followers are going too far. He betrays Jesus perhaps not for pieces of silver, but possibly because he sees Jesus as a social activist who is out of control and in danger of angering the occupying Roman forces. Later, however, Judas begins to believe and out of despair he kills himself.

Performers of all ages, those in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, seniors, as well as teens and half-dozen children make up the cast of 45. A fifteen member orchestra is in the pit. And you’ll find that you’ll know a number of them: they’re your nephews and friends and neighbours.

Behind the scenes an equally energetic production team has been at work. The “Holy Land” set has astonishing effects - stark stone, disco glitter, and real water. The costumes provide a colourful pageantry to accompany the stirring dance and music.

Jesus Christ Superstar plays Confederation Centre November 4 - 6th. Tickets are $18 and $16 (seniors/students) and are available at the box office 1-800-565-0278.

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