“Astonishing … powerful … moving.”
That’s a sample of audience reaction to the Wellington College performance week of Jesus Christ Superstar, which wrapped up a five night sell-out season on June 25.
JCS 2010 celebrated musical theatre at its best. In a collaborative effort with staff, our students shared creative control and proved that young talent is alive and well and living in New Zealand.
Four decades after its first run, this is a show which continues to engage cast, crew and audience alike. A standing ovation on closing night paid tribute to the effort of students from all walks of life: singers, actors, dancers, art history students, media studies students, sister students from Wellington Girls, students involved in sound and lighting, set design … the list goes on.
At the forefront, musical director Carey McDonald led a unique collection of 20 musicians who made up for what they might lack in experience with talent and sheer determination.
“The mix of rock and classical elements, the shifting dynamics and changing time signatures – all of this makes a very challenging score for school students, but we have met it head on,” Ms McDonald told the audience.
“For many, it was the first time they’ve played for a show. The first time they’ve had to follow a conductor. And for many of the cast it was the very first time they’d sung with instruments other than an accompanying piano or guitar.”
Was it perfect? Not always but then again imperfection is at the heart of the JCS story itself. As months of rehearsals progressed we saw the development of both cast and crew. We knew we were working with great music and lyrics but in the end, our production would stand or fall on the passion of its participants.
Operating within a limited budget encouraged, rather than stifled, creativity. This was not a show where thousands of dollars were spent on props, costumes or special effects – but it was real and in an intimate setting of just 160 seats, the audience recognised a high degree of professionalism and moments of brilliance.
This was never going to be a show to be excused as ‘a school production.’ It was always going to be the very best it could and in the end, there was more at stake than five performances.
It’s the experience gained by being a small part of a greater whole which is the real lesson to be learnt from any form of theatre – musical or otherwise.
As far back as 2007, Andrew Lloyd Webber was supporting a plan to encourage music in British schools.
“Whether you want to take up music professionally or just to make music for fun, never has it been more important to learn to play a musical instrument than now.
“Everything is about live performance.”
At Wellington College in New Zealand, we couldn’t agree more.
Our students will continue to play, to perform and to sing.
And they’ll be back with more live musical theatre in 2012
Charlotte Gendall, Blog Coordinator, with thanks to the Really Useful Group for their ongoing interest in our project.