From Roto-Vegas to Nazareth and back again

Posted in Creative Corner
Published: 15/09/2012

The future of NZ theatre is in talented hands.

I’m slowly coming back into reality here in Rotorua after being transported back 2012 years, to Nazareth. I’ve just had the most amazing experience – for a short few hours I’ve been completely caught up in the last few days of Jesus’ life.

I’ve been to the theatre where our local Boys and Girls High School staged Jesus Christ Superstar. The exuberant talent of these teenagers, some as young as 13 was extraordinary. Complimented by creative choreography, superb lighting, symphonic musical score and authentic costumes – it was provocatively entertaining.

In the first Act, Mary (played by Georjah Tansey) gave a compelling first glimpse of ‘Jesus the man’ when she so lovingly and tenderly anointed his concerns for the political angst brewing against him. Her ‘Everything’s Alright’ was utterly mesmerising. Later, in ‘I don’t know how to love him’, with stunning vocals, as she privately exposed her deep-seated love for Jesus, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a Mum or Dad in the audience with a ground-swell of pride as they saw their 15 year old daughter lead like a true lady of the stage.

As the story unfolded – each song was delivered with power, passion and integrity. The entire cast worked together with that beautiful cohesive flow of a truly luminous performance  – a hallmark of Director/Choreographer Robert Young’s commitment to bringing quality musical theatre to Rotorua. It’s the definitive embodiment of leadership and he, the other directors, producers and managers should be heartily congratulated.

The exuberance of the chatter at half-time was telling – there was nothing but praise and admiration for the young cast and the quality of the performance. There was genuine excitement of what yet was to unfold.

In Act II, Jesus became a political football thrown between Caiaphas, Pilate and King Herod. He eventually got kicked to touch, when tension escalated to the judgement that Jesus Christ will be crucified. The story of Judas’ betrayal was richly portrayed by Wirihana Te Rangi, with an adept display of his interpersonal struggle with the way Jesus was being touted into a position of power and ultimately his betrayal of a man he loved. The enormity and severity of which, led to him feeling like a pawn in a game he did not understand - a game he exited abruptly using a rope and a tree.

Dramatic tension peaked in that very private moment between Jesus and God, in the Garden of Gesethemene. Jesus (16 year old Eliot Fenton), beseechingly confessed his fear, confusion and doubt -  “I'd want to see, my God, why I should die? Would I be more noticed than I ever was before? Would the things I've said and done matter any more? Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain?” 

With freefall tears, I did not care to curb, I saw the quintessence of a young man ‘acting his heart out’. In that moment, Eliot Fenton exposed Jesus as a mortal man, cusped on the portal of time. Even Jesus could not see beyond the curtain of death, as none of us can. What seems so obvious to us now, in 2012, is that yes, his death did matter. So much so, that in that moment - time itself stood still, and reset the world’s clocks forever.

To Eliot, Georjah, Wirihana, Robert and the entire cast, crew and orchestra – thank you for a wonderful evening and warmest congratulations to you all.

Although I’m ‘back’ in Rotorua,  my heart heralds back to magical memorable moments of last night's performance. For today… I will be humming, whistling and singing ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ with good reason - the future of NZ theatre is, indeed, in the talented hands, voices, hearts and souls of today’s youth.