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Jesus Christ Superstar comes to Napa

Saturday, May 3, 2014
In rehearsals for Jesus Christ Superstar, Jesus Christ, played by Devindra Harry Paul, makes his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem.

The quiet of St Agnes Church hall is broken by a cast of both experienced and first-time singers diligently running their vocal scales. Their energy charges the early rehearsals of First Instinct Productions’ production of Jesus Christ Superstar 2014.  The First Instinct Productions cast and crew have been rehearsing hard every day for more than a month in preparation for the latest grand musical production, Jesus Christ Superstar. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, this musical borrows from the Gospels of the Bible; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The musical tells the story of the last seven days of Jesus Christ’s life, with a twist—through the genre of Rock and Roll. 


In the orchestra, the production has managed to attract some noteworthy musicians. Listening to the musical overture’s opening guitar riffs, one can hear the dextrous John Hussain of Mungal Patasar & Pantar and neo-kaiso/rock band Gyazette handling the funk/rock inspired phrases easily. Combined with guitarist Francesco Emmanuel, a member of the Canadian Juno award nominated Kobo Town, the orchestra fills out nicely to include all the ingredients of a very interesting sound. A Lorraine Granderson led Bishop Anstey High School Choir and Steel Ensemble return for this production along with accomplished pianist/keyboardist Gregory Wong Fo Sue.


According to Granderson, the orchestra’s  preparations have been coming along well. “The choir is actually rehearsing with the rest of the cast without me! They have been warned about maintaining the discipline expected and I’ve been told they are doing very well.” Granderson is working with the orchestra separately, which also includes several brass instrumentalists and a percussionist from the T&T Police Band. When asked about the challenge of merging the steelpan into all 24 pieces of the music score, Granderson was confident that the combination would work. “A lot of the music in the written score is for keyboard and guitar: some of it is also acoustic, so that is where the pan will feature. The pan is a versatile instrument, it can fit in anywhere and it changes the timbre of anything you put it with. It is a magical instrument! It is also in keeping with the philosophy espoused by First Instinct in having the national instrument in all of its productions.” 


Veteran director of the production is Raymond Choo Kong. Choo Kong believes that the musical will be a fantastic addition to the First Instinct line up of productions. “As you would note, First Instinct does huge productions—we do musicals—and this one is going to be the largest: the stage will be filled with crowds and lots of choreography. It’s a cast of about 70-something and of all ages. We have from four-year-olds all the way up to the mature ones.” He also pointed out the modern feel of the musical that audiences will be offered. “It’s a great musical with well known songs and done in a very modern style."


First Instinct Productions executive producer John Smith recalled an even earlier production in 1979 by the Trinartistes Productions, just eight years after the original Broadway debut. “Trinartistes was my production company...and having done it in 1979, I think it’s a story that I am truly rediscovering. It’s amazing and alarming how many people know so little about the Jesus story. It’s kind of a patchy network in their heads.” First Instinct Productions intends to see it retold in all its glory and more. “I wanted to repeat the 1979 experience and really do it the way I didn’t get to in 1979.” The cast includes Kearn Samuel in the principal role of Judas, Conrad Parris as the conspirator Annas and Mark Ewing as Caiaphas. Devin Harry Paul will reprise the role of Jesus in this production, having done it in a local 2005 version of the musical, and the role of Mary Magdalene will be played by newcomer, 16-year-old Kristen Honeywell.


Jesus Christ Superstar opens at Napa in Port-of-Spain on May 7 and runs until May 11. Tickets will be available at Napa Box Office. There will also be special performances for schools and early purchase special ticket prices for Senior Citizens and children. For more information, contact First Instinct Productions at 461-4033 and 287-8671 or check their Facebook page at First Instinct Productions and Twitter using the hashtag #FIsJCS.


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