MAD Strips Jesus Christ Superstar Down to the Bones

The hallways and rooms of MAD are cluttered with creative projects, students, fabric, and ideas. The name “Jesus Christ” echoes in each classroom as students debate the classical definitions of Biblical stories or struggle to make meaning out of Biblical interpretations. It’s Jesus Christ Superstar time, and the students are ready to show Whitehorse their creative take on the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice collaboration.

English and acting teacher Mary Sloan, sitting casually on the floor amongst her students when I came across her, says MAD is fortunate to be able to produce a technical piece such as Jesus Christ Superstar. “It’s a very demanding musical. It wasn’t even originally created as a stage or theatre act, it was meant for studio music in the first place,” Sloan explains. That is one of the key challenges for MAD students—it’s all about the vocals. “There are no spoken words in the entire piece, it is entirely music and singing,” says Sloan.

So, why is MAD taking on such a difficult piece? Jeff Nordlund, fellow teacher in music and production, steps in to explain.

“We chose it because this is the first time we felt we have been able to step up and accept the challenge. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Mary and I to be able to produce this, and it’s been an absolute delight,” says Nordlund.

The play is moving, showcasing the strong vocal talent of the students. Nordlund informs me they will have eleven wireless mikes, all working to capture and project the efforts of the 23 cast members.

The set is stripped down to its bare bones. Sloan shows me the boxes they will use and the screen they will project video on. There are no glitzy costumes and no fabulous props here. This is about heart and emotion, not flash and production.

When Sloan and Nordlund selected Jesus Christ Superstar a year ago, they knew that the controversial play would come with many intense considerations. Religious connotations, a death and adult-themed material demanded a conversation about religion and the play with the class/cast members.

“We had to open up dialogue about the Bible, and we reviewed it intensely as literature. From the Bible to Christopher Hitchens, we opened up the channels of dialogue for the students,” says Sloan. “Religion is a delicate subject, and we were open to hearing, sharing and learning about it and others interpretations of it. Nobody should feel their opinions or beliefs are oppressed, and the sheer nature of this play has opened this up to us.”

Tough, technical and emotionally demanding, Jesus Chris Superstar offers the students at MAD find something to relate with and bring out to audiences. From classroom conversations to rehearsals, the play is all that’s heard in the hallways.

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