Giving ancient times a more modern look

Director Kevin Armstrong — seen here rehearsing the role of Judas — and Jesus Christ Superstar designer Adriana Bogaard have a modern vision for the Capitol Theatre production. - Bob Hall photo
Director Kevin Armstrong — seen here rehearsing the role of Judas — and Jesus Christ Superstar designer Adriana Bogaard have a modern vision for the Capitol Theatre production.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

On November 8, the local production of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar will open at the Capitol Theatre for a four-day, six-show run. Leading up the show, the Star has asked producer Margaret Stacey to write a series of columns on the show and the people involved in bringing it to life. Here is her final entry.

“What’s it all about?” sings Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar. So I asked Adriana Bogaard, the show designer, to give us the vision she and director Kevin Armstrong wanted to impose upon this special Nelson version of the Lloyd-Webber/Tim Rice rock opera.

“When Kevin and I first started talking about this show, he said he wanted to make the show feel like it was set in a dystopian, Orwellian sort of society — a fascist state, where people were unhappy and hungry for someone to lead them out of oppression. He said to think about what it would be like if the Roman Empire had never actually ended, just deteriorated as time went on,” Bogaard says.

“Costume-wise our main concern was to steer away from the robes and sandals, passion play ideas that people might expect when thinking about a show about Jesus. We wanted most of the people in this show to look like they have just walked off of the street and onto the stage. By setting the story in a totally different atmosphere, though historically inaccurate, I think the universal themes become even more apparent. For example, is the blood-thirsty mob that sends Jesus to the cross a thing of the past? Definitely not — mob mentality and its effect on innocent people is still something we deal with today.

“In our concepts for the show, there are also hints of the Occupy movement — there is a distrust and a disconnect between the police, the politicians, and the common people.

“What I would hope from a design point of view for this show is that our choices lead the audience not to look at the story from arm’s length as an historical piece, but to consider its implications in a modern day sense — would we still let all this take place if it happened today?”

So in my dining room, I’m painting a centrepiece that Adriana has designed: a giant panel with a deteriorated Augustine coin proclaiming Caesar as king. And in Douglas Scott’s rear driveway a set is being raised that reflects Roman deterioration. In Michael Graham’s place, costumes are under construction that depict outdated fascism and others, as Adriana says, that represent folks on Baker Street like you and me. One of the things I love about community theatre is the flavour and feeling that our own people give a production.

Speaking of different flavours, people have asked us in which shows the double cast lead performers are to be seen, so here it is. On Thursday night, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon you can watch Arron Nelson, Kevin Armstrong, Solona Armstrong and Taylor Wilson perform. On Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening, expect to see performances from Michael Calladine, Michael Graham, Josh Murray and Julia Murray.  I would also encourage you to consider seeing the matinees as there is more seating choice.

I’ve been watching rehearsals, and I’m addicted to them. Just can’t leave them to go about my producer business! When we put the big band and the big cast together last week, something happened — that magic moment with huge surround-sound and explosive energy that this unusual rock opera delivers.

I have to thank the Amy Ferguson Institute and Nelson Community Opera for giving me the privilege of working with a dream show. And I thank the community for responding to it with so much enthusiasm and generosity.


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