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Ipswich: Jesus Christ Superstar resurrected at the Regent by Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society

15:35 08 April 2014

IODS Jesus Christ Superstar is at the Ipswich Regent from tonight. Pictures: Lucy Taylor

IODS Jesus Christ Superstar is at the Ipswich Regent from tonight. Pictures: Lucy Taylor

A special set, special help making sure playing Judas isn’t a pain in the neck, special permission from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group to do something different. Ipswich Operatic and Dramatic Society have pulled out all the stops for their production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Loosely based on the last week of Jesus of Nazareth's life, the rock musical is told through the eyes of Judas IscariotLoosely based on the last week of Jesus of Nazareth's life, the rock musical is told through the eyes of Judas Iscariot

“We’ve got a fully qualified company coming in to actually do the hanging of Judas so it’s all above board (in terms of) health and safety, so that’s another feather in the society’s cap that we’re able to really make that work... it’ll be visually really effective as well,” says Martin Warden, making his directorial debut with IODS.

“The set itself is quite modern, with LED lighting and stuff like that. We’ve hired it in, it’s the same set the company used before (when they last staged the show about 11 years ago) which is great because we know it fits in the Regent. The cross at the end is on a hydraulic lift and (there are) various things like that. That’s going to be quite special.”

Loosely based on the last week of Jesus of Nazareth’s life, the rock musical is told through the eyes of Judas Iscariot, played by Jonathan Mudd who played Jesus last time round, although word is he’s enjoying this role more.

“Set in biblical times under Roman rule, we had to stick with that look, that’s how the show is released by the owners,” says Warden, who started his career with Woodbridge-based Company of Four when he was three and spent seven years in Les Miserables on London’s West End. He’s also appeared in Miss Saigon, Oliver, Oklahoma, Jesus Christ Superstar and was the deputy resident director of Superstar in the professional UK and Europe tour.

“There’s one section which stands out, which is the Herod number. We actually rang The Really Useful Group in London and asked permission to dress it in a modern way, it’s so different. It’s a comedy number, the music is different, we’ve got some dancers involved...”

Warden, who has eaten, slept and breathed Superstar for the last five months, was a mix of excitement and nerves when we spoke. The cast had four months of solid rehearsals under their belt and the previous night’s full dress run went exceptionally well.

He’s full of praise for his cast, crew, managing director Mike Wren and fellow ex-West End professional Mark Connell who appeared in The Full Monty, Miss Saigon and Mamma Mia and is handling choreography duties for Superstar.

“For an amateur company to take on such a musical is a really big ask when you just look at the vocal styles required. Even shows like Les Mis and Phantom, really big singer shows, Superstar asks even more and pushes the boundaries even further because of the rock quality the artists need,” says Warden, who was involved in the Children’s Theatre Company’s amazing production of Les Mis at the New Wolsey last year. Phil Kinsella (Jesus), and Mudd have risen to the challenge. So have Ipswich Has Got Talent finalist Mark Backhouse (Pilate) and Edward Jerrie (Caiaphas), who IODS plucked out of a church concert in Henley church, who both have to reach some very high and very low notes.

“To be able to cast the show for an amateur company in Suffolk was something I was really concerned with initially, but it’s been fantastic.”

An epic show deserves an epic cast. It boasts 22 woman and, a miracle in itself, 21 men.

“It’s a very heavily male-orientated show. We’ve only got one female lead, which is Mary. Normally in amateur dramatics you’ve got a lot of females that want to be involved a heck of a lot and not that many men so we’ve done exceptionally well to get loads of guys involved in the show. Once they’re in they’re really enjoying themselves.”

Jesus Christ Superstar runs from April 9-12 at the Ipswich Regent. IODS’ chosen charity for draw money is Suffolk Family Carers.

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