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As a cast member of MDMS’ upcoming production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ I can vouch for everyone when I assure potential audience members that this production has taken us all on a journey. Whether religious or not, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is a highly charged emotional story that every single cast member has related to in their own personal way. Granted, there have been the usual rehearsal laughing fits, but also quite literally blood, sweat and tears as we bring the story to life through the eyes of Director/Choreographer Kathryn White and Musical Director Glen Barnett.

I spoke to Director, Kathryn White, Michael Butler (Jesus), Stuart Dodge (Judas) and Natalie Silsbury (Mary) to gain a deeper understanding their visions and interpretations of this powerful story and their controversial characters.

What does the story of JCS mean to you?

“Jesus Christ Superstar is all about the relationships” replied Kathryn. “Of course, the fact that Jesus was hailed as the Son of God is a huge part of this story, but it’s his humanity rather than his divinity that I’m interested in. There is something very human about the way Jesus is written that forms the basis for my interpretation of this piece. In the same way, I’m also interested in the depth of character in the figures of Judas and Mary. Sometimes, I think they run the risk of becoming a little two dimensional, in the sense that they can be too easily defined by their label of ‘betrayer’ and ‘prostitute’. So in approaching this show, I have focused very much on the several layers of character and reinterpreting the threads of relationships that are interwoven in this piece. A lot of what Jesus, Judas, Mary and even Pilate, Caiaphas and Annas go through is universal human experience – we all experience fear, anger, doubt and wonder at some point in our lives”

A common question being asked of me as a cast member is “does the show have a modern setting”?

“We have tried to decontextualise the piece, in the sense that it does not adhere to any specific time frame or era” answered Kathryn. “Some might interpret the ‘look’ of our production as being set in the past, some may decide it has a contemporary feel. By stripping it back and not allowing the concept to become bigger than the story, hopefully the audience will be free to figuratively walk the journey with the characters and be part of the community we have created”.

As performers interpreting well know and highly regarded roles, what do your characters mean to you and how have you identified with their journey?

“Jesus is a huge thrill for me” replied Michael. “The character is vocally demanding and the show is a huge emotional challenge. Getting into the head (or at least attempting to) of the most revered man in history, even if he has been fictionalised, is a huge challenge”.

“The biggest part of me that shows in my portrayal of Judas is the love I have for my friends” commented Stuart. “Judas does everything he can to do the right thing for the person he loves, it all backfires on him in the end but his love for Jesus drives him to do what he does”.

Being such an intense storyline, do you find it emotionally and/or physically draining?

“The storyline is intense, and hopefully the audience will be consumed by it” answered Michael. “At the same time I certainly don’t consider myself a method actor so I easily switch off from the emotion. You need only ask our incredibly patient director who constantly shakes her head at the fact that I can be being lashed one minute and then cracking inappropriate jokes the next. The big challenge is definitely the physical side of the show, it is bruise central for me and you may as well just amputate my legs from above the knee once the show is over!”
 

Stuart added “Oh God, it’s intense! It’s just a complete emotional rollercoaster right from the start. The death scene is about as hard as it gets in the usually light and fluffy world of musicals! On the up side, my last number is Superstar, it’s a lot more upbeat than anything else I do in the show and gets me out of the slump!”

Do you need to be religious to appropriately interpret and appreciate this story?


“Those who have performed in JCS before will know how moving and emotionally challenging a story it is, even for those with no religious affiliations, and I have been very conscious of maintaining a sense of healthy mental wellbeing in all who perform” replied Kathryn.

“Personally it is hard for me to associate with the character from a religious point of view as I identify myself as an atheist” added Michael. “So I have looked at Jesus as a man with a heavy burden on his shoulders, who has resigned himself to his fate and who is not always able to keep his emotions under control. I think these characteristics are typical of any human, and Jesus was human so he is no exception”.

Can you tell us something about your character that may not be common knowledge?


“There was so little generally known about Mary” answered Natalie. “Her gospel was omitted from every version of the bible, and all we got were glimpses of this woman who was kept by Jesus’ side from the other Apostle’s point of view. I have done some religious and historical research into the story, and what I discovered was quite surprising. The notion that Mary was a Lady of the Night is in fact a falsehood made up by a priest some 50 years or so after she died to damage her memory and power. This statement was actually retracted in the 1960’s. Her testament has since been released as has the gospel of Judas when society has been able to break free of the Church rule to a certain extent”.

Have you enjoyed the creative process and your time with MDMS?

“My experience directing this show has been very positive” replied Kathryn. “We have an extremely diverse cast who are all outstanding and interesting individual performers. They have worked together well and have all created real characters for themselves – every member of the ensemble has a name and a history – and it’s really great to see small sub plots and stories evolve as the show progresses. A show like Jesus Christ Superstar can be quite confronting at times, and the cast have placed a great amount of trust in me and each other to produce fantastic results. While we are affected by our performance, we also have a heck of a lot of fun and I’ve really appreciated the laughter and zaniness at rehearsals! All in all, we’ve created a real sense of community and I think this is what enriches the show. To me, working together is what amateur theatre is all about and I can’t wait to show off what we’ve created”.

Stuart added “I’ve never worked with MDMS before and it’s been great. The cast are heaps of fun. Isn’t that why we do it? Kathryn White is an inspiration. It’s been great working with a director that has so much passion and enthusiasm”

“The creative process has been very long, but also incredibly rewarding” furthered Michael. “I have worked with MDMS before and had been keen to return. They are as friendly a company as you could find and they have extremely passionate people working for them. It has been great to reconnect with some old friends and to make new ones. I am thrilled to have met Stu and Nat, they are both phenomenal performers and they have made my task so much easier”

For further insight into the process, craziness and passion that has gone into creating MDMS’ ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, visit their blog at www.mdmsjcs.wordpress.com and be sure to book your tickets to this wonderful interpretation of a classic show!

 

WHEN:
Friday June 11 @ 8pm
Saturday June 12 @ 2pm
Saturday June 12 @ 8pm
Sunday June 13 @ 2pm
Friday June 18 @ 8pm
Saturday June 19 @ 2pm
Saturday June 19 @ 8pm
WHERE:
The Karralyka Centre, Mines Rd, Ringwood

BOOKINGS:

Phone : 0457 053 905
Email: [email protected] with your ticket booking request.
 

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