Amateurs set bar high for rock opera

Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar

It’s going to cost Worthing Musical Comedy Society something like £45,000-£50,000 to stage Jesus Christ Superstar (April 29-May 3).

As vice chairman Andy Roberts explains, it’s something like £13,000 to hire the Connaught and the same again in rights.

“That’s something like £26,000 before you have even done anything. And then you have got the sound, which is very expensive.”

But Andy is quietly confident the company will achieve the 85-90 per cent attendance they need to budget for. They’ve got a strong, loyal audience – and the show itself is a cracker.

“We are very fortunate that we have got a lot of what I call heritage booking, people that support the group whatever show we do, and we have also got a lot of party groups that come along, and that’s really important too.

“Also we really do try to give people good quality. We are only amateurs, but we try to put the bar very high to make sure people have a good evening. Tickets are not cheap, but we know that we have just got to keep working hard.

“I think the stakes have got higher in the past few years because the finances are so difficult. There are companies that are struggling, and some have disappeared. But you need a group of people that are prepared to run it, and we know that we can only survive if people put in the hours. But you have got to remember that you are only as good as your last show.”

True enough, but it’s been the basis of 79 years of success so far for the company who celebrate their 80th birthday last year – 80 years during which plenty of others have fallen by the wayside.

Maybe it’s because they are prepared to take a few risks. As Andy says, Jesus Christ Superstar is a little outside their usual line of shows.

“It’s a show that we have never done before, and it is something of a departure for us.

“We tend to major mainly on the traditional musicals.

“I can remember this one coming out. I can remember it being incredibly new, and you can hear so much of the ’70s in there, Deep Purple, Led Zep. It is such great music. It’s a rock opera. It is not an opera opera. It is scored for a rock band. We have got session musicians coming down.

“But it is also very true to the Bible. It is very Biblical, and whether you are a Christian or not, whether you have faith or not, there is no denying that no man in history has probably had as much effect on history over 2,000 years.”

Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics), the show tells the story of the final days of Jesus Christ, (played by Mark Gordon) through the eyes of Judas (Davide Arbisi), his betrayer. It follows Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, the betrayal, Passion and crucifixion—and Jesus’ relationships with Judas Iscariot and Mary Magdalene. The show features classics including I Don’t Know How to Love Him, Heaven on Their Minds and Superstar.

Andy is playing the high priest who is gunning for Jesus’ death. It is Andy who says “We need him crucified – it’s all you have to do” – a line, he admits, it is pretty weird to find himself saying as a practicing Christian.

But the fact that Andy is a practicing Christian certainly serves to make the whole thing more real, he says.

Jesus Christ Superstar is at Worthing’s Connaught Theatre, running from April 29-May 3.

Tickets on 07775 204869 or 01903 206206.