Queenstowner who was JC is now ‘superstar’ director

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Showbiz Queenstown’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar next month will be a second coming for four locals.

Marty Newell, who’s making his debut as director, played the title role when the society staged the popular rock opera in 1999.

Paul Schoenbachler reprises his role in the last show as Jewish high priest Caiaphas, Peter Waaka switches from apostle Simon to Pontius Pilate, and society stalwart Kathleen Brentwood plays a priest though she also has similar ensemble roles to what she had last time.

Newell says it’s fantastic to have four people from the last Showbiz Jesus Christ Superstar back again 15 years later: “It really was great fun with a great group who have stayed lifelong friends.”

Playing Jesus was “an absolute rollercoaster – one moment the people around you are yelling for you, the next minute they’re yelling against you”.

The role left him shattered after every show though he recalls a matinee performance was truncated after the power went out in the then Queenstown Memorial Hall: “So I played Jesus nine times and was only crucified eight.”

Newell says his previous experience with the production gives him a feeling for the show and how it affects people: “Most shows have their own wee thing but Jesus Christ Superstar is quite special.”

Having played Jesus, he says it’s easier to direct Brentwood’s son Finley, who plays the title role this time.

“But when you’re playing Jesus you’re focusing on Jesus, now I’m focusing on 32 roles.

“We do have a lot of new people in the cast – trying to explain what’s in my head to them is very important and is probably the most difficult thing I’ve found thus far.”

Kathleen, who’s regularly performed with Showbiz since 1985, says it feels a little weird but also wonderful watching her son rehearsing.

“I remember watching Marty go through all the rollercoaster of emotions playing the part of Jesus and watching Finley now do it, it’s fascinating to watch.”

Asked to compare this latest production with the old one, Kathleen says: “There is an edginess and a very contemporary feel to it.”

Waaka agrees: “It’s a lot more modern take which people will really enjoy.”

Showbiz’s Jesus Christ Superstar runs at the Queenstown Memorial Centre from May 14-24.

scoop@scene.co.nz