Jesus Christ Superstar, presented by South Coast Choral and Arts Society
Victor Harbour Town Hall, until May 23.
Staging a famous rock opera musical and global phenomenon such as Andrew Lloyd Webber's powerful and poignant 'Jesus Christ Superstar' (herein referred to as simply JCS), is a difficult task
for any company to undertake, be that professional, or not, for the reason of the many strict
and deliberate choices which must be made to ensure the show is a success.
JCS has existed since its debut on Broadway in October of 1971, yet it is still a very popular
and successful musical, and South Coast Choral and Arts Society make it very obvious as to why.
This production company has produced a sensational version, and anybody would be lucky to see
this indeed phenonemal show.
Director, JJ Geelen has found perhaps some of the best talent the city of Adelaide is likely to
offer, each actor perfectly suited to their character. Geelen is to be commended for this,
because finding appropriate actors who can both sing and dance, and do it well, is never an easy
task. Geelen reveals in the program notes that the production team "believe [their] contemporary
version of [JCS] will engage the whole community. [Their] cast, musicians and crew have worked
extremely hard to present the quality production.]" Geelan could not have been any more correct;
the production certainly engaged me, so no doubt it will engage the community, too; it is most
obvious the very many hours that have gone into an absolute quality production.
Although the performance venue, Victor Harbour Town Hall, appears to have a limiting stage, set
designer JJ Geelen has done a superb job of working with this space extremely well. The multi-
levelled set, though simplistic, allowed the choreography by Tanya Curtis, Kira Adams and Thomas
Brooks to shine to it's full extent, as actors were able to use each space of the set, to assist
in presenting the large ensemble numbers. Similarly, this set choice allowed for Geelen to create
effective character blocking, in such a way as to clearly portray important points of the
show. Additionally, Geelens choice to have the orchestra visible on stage, instead of in the
usual orchestra pit was a perfect one, as the music is central to the storyline. This would not
have been an easy choice to try and fit the band on the stage, but this, too, worked so
While the ensemble worked perfectly as a team, to assist in producing such a high quality show,
the principal actors need to be commended, too. Stand out actors were Penny Smith, Zoe Tammita,
Kim Bell and Alexander Wright, as Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdelene, Pilate, and Caiphas,
respectively. Each were very appropriately cast and performed and sang exceptionally well.
Casting Smith as Judas could have been a very risky choice, however, the choice was a very good
one. Smith has exceptional vocals, and it is very clear that she had a solid understanding of
Judas. Smith's "stage business" were very suitable choices, and clearly indicated how Judas was
feeling at particular times. This reviewer found it easy to determine what Judas was thinking,
just by stage business alone; that is a true indication of a great actor. Smith definitely
conquered the challenge of the (spoiler alert!) suicide scene with Judas, perfectly portraying
Judas' pain and agony at his decision to betray Christ, eventually leading to Judas' death, and
in turn, the death of Christ. Similarly, casting Bell as Pilate could have also been risky, but,
like Smith, Bell portrayed Pilate perfectly. Bell has the perfect deep voice needed for Pilate.
Likewise, Wright has the appropriate incredibly deep voice, needed for Caiaphas. Tammita has the
perfect graceful voice of an angel, just the exact voice needed for the character of Mary. Her
acting ability when not singing is wonderful, also, evening drawing some tears from me.
However, though these actors were all great, the actor who stood out most significantly is that
of Robert Bell, as Jesus. JCS is Bell's second musical production which he has starred in,
however, this is hard for one to believe, as Bell's voice is just sublime. He is perfect as
Jesus, and very clearly knows the character of Jesus in JCS. Bell's rendition of the heart-
wrenching song 'Gethsemane' is flawless, but even that is an understatement. In such a demanding
role, Bell was cast appropriately.
Special mention must be put here for the make-up artists, who "made-up" Bell's back to very
realistically look like the back of Jesus after he had been whipped 39 times, complete with
"dripping blood". The segue into revealing Bell's back after the flogging, was very clever, too.
Mention must also go to the costume team, comprising of Josie Catt, Lynne McGrail and Anne
Boulter, for very clever costuming choices. Choosing to clothe Jesus and his followers in
contemporary clothing (base clothing chosen by the actors themselves), was an interesting, but
nonetheless, effective choice. What was also effective was the choice to have an obvious
contrast between the costuming of Judas and Jesus, whereby Judas wore much darker clothing,
while Jesus had stark white base clothing, and his followers wore generally brighter clothing.
However, if I am to critique just one thing though, it would be this. At times, it was difficult
to hear some of the minor actors in the scenes with Caiaphas, and also there appeared to be a
lack of energy and "busyness" that is very much needed for the temple scene. But, these are only
minor things, and did not detract from the show being what it was, an absolute delight to watch.
In finishing, if there is one show you do not want to miss this May, it would be this one; and
it is certainly well worth the trip to Victor Harbour, just to see this spectacle. May this
production help the legacy of JCS to live on for many more years.