For Melina Schein, a good musical is all about the power behind the songs.
That’s why when Schein (formerly Moore) of Big Apple Productions had the opportunity to bring Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar back to the Vernon stage May 17-18, she knew she had to jump on it.
And with a chorus of 75 singers under the direction of Lana O’Brien, this year’s show is sure to be of biblical proportions.
“It’s all about the quality of the music for me,” Schein said. “That’s what musicals are meant to be. We’re going to make sure that’s the focus of this.”
Visuals, while important in a musical, have taken over as the centre of attention in many productions, Schein said. Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, on the other hand, is a classic true sing-through — a theatrical production where the story is largely told through song rather than dialogue.
“I really like the music, honestly,” said Craig Howard, who dons the garb of Pontius Pilate. “It’s very powerful. There are times you can hear a pin drop.”
Backed by a stunning 10-piece band comprised of Okanagan legends, Schein said, the chorus and principal characters have been hard at work for three months to put what Schein calls her rock symphony of more than 20 songs together.
“It’s a true rock opera. It requires a lot of talent,” Schein said. “I think it is for sure Webber’s best work.”
A partial reason for that, Schein said, is it’s a timeless tale.
Based loosely on Gospel accounts of Jesus’ final week, Jesus Christ Superstar differs from many tellings in that it’s told through the perspective of Judas Iscariot, brought to life on stage by local star Judy Rose.
“I think it kicks (butt) that Judas is a woman, especially in this time,” said Rose, who is also a co-producer for the show, adding that it’s empowering to have a woman lead. “I am thrilled to be singing Judas’ role again this year and look forward to rocking all with this magnificent music.”
Big Apple Productions brought Jesus Christ Superstar to Vernon’s Trinity United Church last year and sold out three performances.
“It’s just had a big revival,” Schein said, noting NBC’s recent Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert that featured Grammy, Oscar and Tony-winner John Legend.
And, through tremendous community support, Schein was inspired to bring it back and take it to the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre.
“We have a cast of incredible people, many returning from last year,” Schein said. “We thought we would move it to bigger digs.”
A now heavily bearded Paul Rossetti will again take on the role of Jesus in Big Apple Productions’ performance.
“When I was watching an interview with Tim Rice (lyricist), they talked about their interest to show Christ as a human being — what he would have gone through as a man,” Rossetti said.
It was a life-changing experience for him when he performed the titular role last year, and one Rossetti knew he had to repeat.
“I didn’t really know how important it would be to me until I was doing it. The week of performances, it took on a really profound meaning. It affected me deeply on a spiritual level,” Rossetti said. “Every rehearsal has been a real gift. I believe this performance is moving, and I think the audience feels that.”
For Brian Martin, a local radio personality who appears in many of Schein’s musicals, Jesus Christ Superstar is what originally caught his attention.
“This is the first musical I ever saw live. I hated musicals until I saw this,” grinned Martin, who portrays Caiaphas.
Charlotte Backman as Mary Magdalene, who first uncovered the musical through last year’s performance, said it has provided her with an opportunity to grow.
“I find it’s out of my comfort zone to do and very challenging,” Backman said. “The whole show is very emotional.”
Jesus Christ Superstar, Big Apple Productions’ 15th full-scale musical, will overpower the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre stage May 17-18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $46.50 adults, $43 students and seniors and are available through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.