Jesus Christ Superstar

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Celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, the Tamworth Musical Society is well known for staging some incredible events! Their next not to be missed show is Jesus Christ Superstar, which you can enjoy at the Capitol Theatre in Tamworth. Director of the show, Ben Mettam, is gearing up for what promises to be one of the society’s best productions yet …

Hi Ben. The Tamworth Musical Society Inc. has been around for 130 years this year – which is an amazing milestone! How long have you been involved, and what do you most enjoy about being a member?

I started with the Tamworth Musical Society when I was 15! My best mate roped me in to doing backstage work when he was performing in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, because they were shorthanded. I loved the musical so much and the social side of it, so I decided to audition the next year. 

I went away to uni, worked in Armidale, then found myself back here joining the family business – so got involved again. Since 2006 I’ve played the part of committee member, Treasurer, Vice President and even had a stint as President! 

What I enjoy most about being part of the society really has to be the friendships you create. Working in such a close space together to achieve the same goal, all for the love of it (there is no money being paid) – there is something unique and special about that. 

In fact, it has led me to pursue my passion, and last month I opened a youth drama academy in Tamworth!

The society will be presenting Jesus Christ Superstar at the Capitol Theatre in Tamworth throughout October/early November. Why was this particular musical chosen to perform?

Each year the committee takes submissions from potential Directors and their creative team. I chose JCS because the message is eerily relevant today, maybe more so than with recent productions. The society has had recent success with their smash hit Rock of Ages, so I wanted to expand that success with this rock musical which has both incredible music, and a great score written at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s peak. 

The business decision of what two shows to perform are also calculated; we need to produce shows that tell a message and entertain the community, but the bills still have to be paid! 

What does your role as Director of this musical involve?

I guess the easiest way to describe it is, it’s like being captain of the ship. Being the first to get there, the last to leave, together with the Musical Director – Sam Langston. This show is entirely sung through, a true rock opera, so a lot of the weight falls on Sam’s shoulders.

The fun part is getting as emotionally invested in a scene as the actors you are directing, but then there’s the “management” part of the role – holding meetings with the creative team, making sure the “ship” is still on course, on schedule, and under budget!

It takes up so much of your time, there are definitely hair pulling moments, but on Opening Night as the curtain falls and the audience is clapping, the cast is smiling, you think – yeah, that was totally worth it! Let’s do it again!

Run us through the cast members …

The two people carrying the weight are Josh Hatton and Chris Langston, who play Jesus and Judas Iscariot. They will both be very familiar to Tamworth audiences, though haven’t been seen together since they played brothers in 2010’s Blood Brothers. Rounding out the trinity is Katt Nolland playing Mary Magdalene, who steps into her first leading role after playing many supporting roles. 

You will also be seeing a killer cameo by Pixie Jenkins, who plays King Herod with his particular enthusiasm in a number that will bring the house down!

Altogether we have 38 cast members who have been working tirelessly to bring this to stage. We had our first big Sunday dance rehearsal yesterday, and the energy these guys are putting into this show is incredible. They were all sweating at the end!

How have society members adapted/modified this production to make it their own?

This show has been produced many times; it is the second time Tamworth Musical Society have produced it. However, the story just remains equally relevant today. Everyone knows the story; however Jesus Christ Superstar has some marked differences from the biblical story. The main focus is not on Jesus Christ, but on Judas Iscariot. He is portrayed with good intentions; even when he criticises Jesus, he means well. 

In this version, Judas is stronger and more intelligent, while Jesus comes across as weak and emotional. These traits make him less godlike and more human than in the biblical story. This is what drove me and my curiosity to direct this musical. Showing the human side of this story was far more interesting to me.

Add to that the use of technology; we will be using live camera feeds projected on to a big screen to really show the intensity and close ups of the emotional ride the characters are put upon. It should make for a great night’s entertainment!

Whom would you like to acknowledge for their part in getting this production stage ready?

Oh dear, there are a lot of people that make this production get to stage. Sometimes upwards of 100! The creative team definitely, Sam Langston as Musical Director, Anika Chillingworth as the tireless Choreographer, Lara Northey as my Assistant Director and general sound board, as well as Matt Frazer, who is our Assistant Musical Director and ridiculously overqualified rehearsal pianist. 

We have the lovely duo of Ann Walsh and Robyn Bourke spending countless hours on wardrobe, Danny Hankinson designing the set and lighting, all overseen by the Production Manager, Joe Tandy.

I want to particularly single out the Ensemble though. These troops, many of whom have not much dance experience at all, are working their butts off to deliver a truly energetic performance, and it looks amazing. We have started three rehearsals a week, and we all have day jobs!

Once Superstar wraps up, what does the society have its sights set on next?

I believe there are another two big shows on the cards for next year, but you’ll have to attend the Capitol Theatre Season 2019 launch in October to find out!

As for me, I’ll be concentrating on my Drama Academy and building that up for a big 2019 open, though it’s always hard to say no to an audition when you see a show you like pop up!

Thanks Ben.

Interview: Jo Robinson.

THE PLUG

Jesus Christ Superstar, 26th October – 10th November. Capitol Theatre, capitoltheatretamworth.com.au

Tamworth Musical Society tms.org.au

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