Rock ‘n’ roll takes on the Bible, with some street style thrown in, in Freddy Koikaran’s latest production.
Jesus in jeans. The image isn’t sacrilegious, not when it is part of the latest edition of the longest-running rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. The controversial 1970 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice has seen many interpretations, including one by city-based theatre director Michael Muthu. But this year, the reins are changing hands, with Freddy Koikaran and Denver Anthony Nicholas giving it a go. And, as it turns out, both serendipity and a lack of funds have helped shape it. Hours of discussions crafted a script that is very ‘today’; phone calls and auditions got them a cast of professionals—like lead actors Prashant Oliver and Sunny Abraham—and amateurs who wanted to perform just for the love of theatre; and the (late) entry of actor-producer Amit Singh’s The Royal Flush Productions helped them smoothen the rough edges.
Interpreter of melodies
“I am not a fan of musicals that don’t have any dialogue. JCS is the only exception in my 25-year career,” says Koikaran (of Stagefright Productions), who plays Pontius Pilot. “It is one of those musicals I grew up listening to. Only when I started working on it did I understand the depth of the lyrics and music,” he adds. The 90-minute play details the last week of Jesus’ life, and is seen through the eyes of Judas—portrayed not as a traitor but as someone concerned with the cult-like worship of a man. While the duo has made a few changes “based on our interpretations of things”, they state the play’s soul remains intact. Nicholas says their version references the production that went on tour in Australia in 2012. “We’d come up with a contemporary script, then we saw the Aussie edition and we were like ‘they stole our ideas’,” laughs the founder of Nicholas Productions.
The dance off
While the sets are minimal—a projection screen and a few boxes that the actors will move—the 35-member cast promises to keep the drama high. In fact, many of the cast are dancers from Aparna Nagesh’s all-girl ensemble, High Kicks. “Among the 24 songs, around six have a lot of choreography. My vocabulary is global dance fusion, and you can expect numbers with the feel of burlesque, jazz, Broadway and even high-energy Las Vegas ,” she says. The two co-directors are also all-praise for the seven-piece live band, with members drawn from several city colleges, that has stayed true to the energy of the original rock compositions.
September 10-11, at 3 pm and 7 pm, at Museum Theatre. Tickets from Rs 300. Details: in.bookmyshow.com.
—Surya Praphulla Kumar