Jesus Christ superstar

Saturday September 9 2017

The cast of Jesus Christ Superstar rehearsing

The cast of Jesus Christ Superstar rehearsing at Kenya Cultural Centre’ in Nairobi on September 2, 2017. The musical will be staged from September 14-17. PHOTO| THOMAS RAJULA 

By KAREN MURIUKI

In 1970, award-winning producer, Andrew Lloyd-Webber and author Tim Rice wrote a worldwide marvel, Jesus Christ Superstar. The brilliant musical has been produced globally with 19 major productions in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia alone, including a number of West End and Broadway revivals.

Over the years, the play has been nominated for six Olivier Awards, including Best Musical Revival, Best Theatre Choreography, Best Lighting Design, Best Sound Design, Outstanding Achievement in Music, and Best Actor in a Musical for Tyrone Huntley. The production bagged the Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival and Evening Standard Award for Best Musical.

The first outdoor production was in the United Kingdom, and now celebrates 45 years since its original debut in 1972 in London.

The musical that has wowed generations for over 40 years opened its curtains at the Kenya National Theatre over the Easter holidays this year with an impressive 12 shows.

The set of shows left the audiences in awe, and were further lauded by a number of newspapers, websites and blogs. It is set to reprise and rock a comeback this week at the same venue, in partnership with the Nairobi Performing Arts Studio, NPAS. It will run from Thursday, September 14 up until Sunday the 17th.

The musical, which is directed by critically acclaimed British director Stuart Nash, whose recent credits include Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Annie, is based on the original rock opera production.

It depicts the last week of Jesus Christ’s life as seen through Judas’s eyes, his betrayer. It also focuses on Judas’ struggle to make the decision of betraying Jesus.

It further paints a picture of Jesus’s human nature, illustrating the emotions he felt in understanding and accepting his role as leader, martyr and as the Son of God. The production is able to humanise Jesus by offering an interpretation of his mindset.

In order to maintain the original production’s reputation, the show is depicted by Kenya’s finest cast members. The whole production totals about 90 people. There are about 40 people on stage, 17 in the orchestra and slightly more than 25 backstage.

Mkamzee Mwatela plays Herod. She is known for her spectacular acting skills in Kenyan TV shows Mali and Stay. Yes, you read that right, a lady plays King Herod’s part. The role of Judas is played by Mugambi Nthiga, who acted as Cedric in the award-winning Kenyan film; Nairobi Half Life. One of Kenya’s loved live performers and singer-songwriters, known for his hits such as "Sana Sana" and Saida, Dan “Chizi” Aceda is also part of the cast.

Some of the roles have however been recast from April’s shows. Martin Githinji is set to play Jesus and Nice Githinji is to play Mary, mother of Jesus, as part of the ones joining the production.

Director Stuart says; “There is amazing friendship among the members of the cast and in turn there is really nice energy which is required for the show.’

The production has no spoken dialogue. Furthermore, the music has contemporary attitudes and sensibilities.

“Our director Stuart, has taken a modern day chain on the production, almost as if it is happening in Nairobi. That would be one of the very few differences with the original musical,” said Mugambi.

Which character is set to blow away the audience?

“Jesus, played by Martin Githinji,” says Nice Githinji. “He is such a good singer, predominantly known as a musician. He additionally has a rock star look, and I think that will be exciting.”

The show, says Stuart, is targeted for everyone, not Christians specifically. It’s not a religious play; it is more historical.

“The stage utility is also set to amaze the audience definitely more than it did five months ago. The set and technical side of it is something that will be quite of a big level. It’s not a static set, basically. Every corner of the stage has been used to perfection,” adds Stuart.

Get ready to get mind blown by the hour and a half long production and most delightful theatre experience.