It was one of the most successful community theatre productions this town has ever staged and I still can’t believe I was a part of it.
With a cast of 57, a live orchestra of 17 and 41 members of the production team, Jesus Christ Superstar was a pretty impressive undertaking. That 2,400 very appreciative people came out to see it made it a pretty impressive community moment.
I dove into Superstar back in the spring when director Kevin Armstrong and musical director Laura Johnson held auditions at the First Baptist Church in Fairview. A lifelong love of the Andrew Lloyd Webber music is what provided me the courage to even try. The pair were kind enough to look past my limited vocal range and cast me in the chorus. I was thrilled to be part of it.
What followed was a journey into a theatre experience I never expected and an entirely new appreciation for what it takes to pull off such a high quality show.
Starting in September there were 10 intense weeks of rehearsal. When I looked around the Fairview church that was our home base and saw the amazingly talented people the directors had assembled, fear was the overriding emotion. Though enthusiastic about the music and being part of the scene, I felt much anxiety that my horrible dancing ability was going to totally ruin the show. But as I’ve learned, the theatre scene is one of encouragement and empowerment from others in the cast. I forged on.
I’ll be honest. When I heard we were putting on six shows during a long weekend at 30 bucks a head, I wasn’t sure how full the Capitol Theatre would be. Clearly I had no idea how popular the music was and how eager the community was to take it in.
Opening night was incredible from start to finish. With a perfect mix of the experienced and the unproven, the cast gave it all they had. At the end the crowd stood and cheered. I knew it was something special, but standing in the bright lights at that moment it became crystal clear.
The next morning I met one of my good friends for our regular coffee chat. Though he has lived here most of his life, the majority of his time is spent at the hockey arena. His trips to the Capitol are rare, but he came to support his buddy. He left with a whole new appreciation for community theatre.
Our conversation generally turns to sport, but on this morning it was all theatre. Like so many on opening night, he was thoroughly entertained and impressed with all aspects of the show. I left coffee wondering if Superstar managed to pull off a small Nelson miracle of bringing sport and art together. We can only hope.
Five more shows, five more standing ovations and four more sellouts followed. Way too many cool moments on stage and off to even mention.
By Saturday afternoon my fear had finally subsided and I settled into the parts I was given. At last I was comfortable with the opening chorus dance scene (public displays of dance are not cherished personal moments) and was loving the scenes on stage. I even figured out the whole fourth wall concept and totally forgot the audience was there.
The final bows on Sunday night were bittersweet. Total satisfaction in having been part of such a fantastic production, yet sad knowing that Monday morning the cast would no longer be together. Like any other journey you take with a group of people, you don’t fully appreciate what you have until you part ways.
One of the keys to success of Superstar was the job Armstrong and Johnson did at assembling the cast. There were stage veterans like the electrifying Bessie Wapp, Armstrong, Sydney Galbraith-Black, Gabe Macdonald, Michael Graham and Pat Henman. Breakout performances by relative local theatre newcomers Arron Nelson, Josh Murray, Solona Armstrong, Michael Calledine, Julie Johnson-Murray, Taylor Dean Wilson and Dana Rosenberg. The rest of the cast came from a diverse range of age, experience, occupation, interest and talent. All of this combined to bring an unrivaled enthusiasm to the historic Capitol stage.
The tentacles of Superstar reached deep into the community and the community responded in kind.
As for me, that’s it. I’m done. I can totally appreciate the drug that is live theatre. It’s an addiction and for good reason. The past three months have given me a whole new appreciation for what it takes to pull off such an epic production. I will be forever grateful to the directors for allowing me the opportunity. But my favourite role is as an audience member where I can continue to appreciate the talents this community is so blessed to enjoy.
Bob Hall is the editor at the Nelson Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org