Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

01/11/2014 - 30/11/2014

Production Details


Julia Deans, Madeline Sami, Laughton Kora, Jeremy Redmore and Kristian Lavercombe are among nearly 40 cast, chorus and musicians who will take to the stage under the direction of Oliver Driver. 

Jesus is being played by musical theatre wunderkind Lavercombe who last performed with ATC in the 2008 production of Spelling Bee. Lavercombe, normally based in London, has spent the past two years playing Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show, touring the UK and Australia. 

Madeline Sami is playing the flamboyant and sarcastic King Herod, whose King Herod’s Song is one of the musical’s most popular scenes. 

Well-known New Zealand musician Julia Deans is playing Mary Magdelene, whose songs I Don’t Know How to Love Him and Everything’s Alright are some of musical theatre’s most famous. 

The greatest story ever told. The most famous rock opera of all time. With lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jesus Christ Superstar is loosely based on the Gospel’s account of the last week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, beginning with his arrival into Jerusalem and ending with the Crucifixion. Here, the myth is stripped from the man to reveal an all-too-human soul, troubled and doubting, the fickle nature of those closest to him, the whims of those who judge him, the heartache of a woman who loves him and the motives of the man who ultimately betrays him.

First staged on Broadway in 1971, Jesus Christ Superstar is an immortal of musical theatre. Audiences around the globe have thrilled to its unforgettable soundtrack with songs such as “Everything’s Alright”, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and the iconic signature tune. With a contemporary, urban, twenty-first-century re-staging, Auckland Theatre Company’s Jesus Christ Superstar promises an up close and personal experience like no other and an inspirational finale to the year. Transcendent!

“Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber were always keen on an intimate staging of this work, where the powerful questioning lyrics could be given the same weight as the music. I promise you it will be a profound and uplifting experience in the intimacy of Q Theatre.” Colin McColl 

The myth is stripped from the man to reveal an all-too-human soul – troubled and doubting, the fickle nature of those closest to him, the whims of those who judge him, the heartache of a woman who loves him and the motives of the man who ultimately betrays him. 

Driver is bringing the world’s most famous rock opera into the present with and urban and contemporary re-staging. 

The now-extended Kensington Swan season of Jesus Christ Superstar rounds off ATC’s stellar 2014 season, playing in the same spot as last year’s sell out and three times extended Chicago

Q Theatre, Queen Street
1 – 30 November 2014  
For more information or to book tickets, please visit 

Jesus Christ:  Kristian Lavercombe 
Judas Iscariot:  Laughton Kora 
Mary Magdalene:  Julia Deans 
Simon Zealotes:  Jeremy Redmore 
Pontius Pilate:  Andrew Grainger 
Caiaphus:  Richard Green 
Annas:  Shane Bosher 
King Herod:  Madeleine Sami 
Thomas:  George Keenan 
Peter:  Kyle Chuen 
High Priest:  Gareth Williams 
Thaddaeus:  Rosita Vai 
High Priestess:   Colleen Davis  

Set Designer:  John Verryt 
Costume Designer:  Elizabeth Whiting 
Lighting Designer:  Sean Lynch 
Production Manager:  Andrew Malmo 
Company Manager:  Fern Christie-Birchall 
Technical Manager:  Bonnie Burrill 
Stage Manager:  Gabrielle Vincent 
Repetiteur/Vocal Coach:  Penny Dodd 
Props Master:  Bec Ehlers

Jesus and co cover visual cracks with voices from heaven

Review by Janet McAllister 04th Nov 2014

In reimagining Jesus and the Apostles as a rock band, director Oliver Driver delivers a hot mess; it’s sometimes excellent, often obvious elements haven’t yet quite cohered. It may not matter: the superstar of this Auckland Theatre Company production is the singing, and, boy, we hear some impressive pipes.

Laughton Kora brings intensity and surprising warmth to Judas while Kristian Lavercombe as Jesus is a fabulous rock belter. Julia Deans’ tone and phrasing is beautiful and crystal clear in Mary Magdalene’s ballads; while Richard Green adds haughtiness to his rich bass with rolled ‘Rs’ as Caiaphas (his bald and blond Pharisees are marvellously styled by Elizabeth Whiting in black robes). The eight-piece band, led by musical director Leon Radojkovic, delivers Andrew Lloyd Webber’s complex counterpoints superbly.

Jesus doesn’t have an early anthem opportunity to pose as charismatic rock star, so the gig posters we see when finding our seats leave us with unmet expectations. [More]


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Jesus Lives!

Review by Matt Baker 04th Nov 2014

Jesus Christ Superstar is a deceptively difficult musical. What seems at first a song-list with the appropriate momentum to a presumptuously well-known plot can also be exposed as an inadequate foothold for character journeys and development. Thankfully, director Oliver Driver has handled this difficulty with excellent casting decisions. Conceptually, the most important thing interpreting the Superstar eponymy literally allows is for musical director Leon Radojkovic to modernise the 1970s arrangement while still remaining faithful to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s composition.

For those previously unfamiliar with Kristian Lavercombe, the name is one that will not be forgotten. An authentic musical theatre performer of equally impressive singer-actor ability, Lavercombe’s nasal resonance and despondent introspection aptly dissociates him from the rest of the cast, without forcibly indicating any superficial otherness to the role. [More]


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Fantastic, magical journey involving and immersing

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 02nd Nov 2014

There is nothing quite like an Auckland Theatre Company opening night. The stars are out in force and the energy amongst the growing crowd is crackling pre show. I am super excited, having seen one of the best modern interpretations of Jesus Christ Superstar last year in Hamilton (staged by Full House Productions). I am expecting big things from this fully professional production of same.  

Entering the theatre I am taken by the set up. We are seated in the round and, as I will quickly learn, the action comes at us from all angles. We are seated for a good half hour before show time, one can only imagine what the delay is as there is a proper calmness about the stage hands who are giving audience members paper money… a nod to what is to come.

The band strikes up the overture, that familiar tune, I can almost hear people humming along: “Jesus Christ, Super Star. Who are you, what have you sacrificed?”  Away we go! And what a fantastic, magical journey. 

Judas (Laughton Kora) appears, guitar in hand. Strumming and singing, he is formidable from the get-go and is one of the highlights of the show for me. I appreciate every ounce of his energy, I get a real sense of his internal conflict over how Jesus is choosing to conduct his life, his decision to ‘dob’ him in – a move that he knows will only go one way (but then we all know this story does not end well for Jesus) – and then taking his own life. I feel every part of his struggle, which is a true testament to Kora’s ability not only as a singer but also as an actor. I hope I see him pursue musical theatre, he is good at it!

Kora’s presence is at all times larger than life and for a great deal of the show he steals scenes out from under our tragic hero Jesus (Kristian Lavercombe) who I feel struggles to fill Jesus’ sandals. I expected more of him. Sure he is an accomplished performer and certainly has a voice, however in my view he does not portray that guy you can believe to be a leader. Perhaps he will grow into it as the season rolls on but tonight I do not get the sense of a Jesus who is that charismatic figure; the public darling, the fated leader of modern religion – to be biblical about it: the word made flesh.

His girlfriend even serves to make him look diminutive. Indeed Julia Deans’ portrayal of Mary Magdalene is sparkling: note for note she shines and brings the star quality of Kiwi rock royalty to the show.   

Sparkling also is Kyle Chuen who plays Peter. His voice is strong and he fills the stage. His denouncing of Jesus is perfectly played. The kind of rawness and impact that makes me wonder if he would have been a better fit for the lead. 

The baddies are exceptionally good. I cannot fault the presentation of the dark overlords they literally tower over us as they plan to get Jesus dispatched. Richard Green plays Caiaphas evilly well, his bass tone bringing a proper scary edge to the role. Shane Bosher’s portrayal of Annas is bang on the money and his physicality makes him a most appropriate fit for the role; at times he is all I can see.

Not to say that Colleen Davis (High Priestess) and Gareth Williams (High Priest) don’t do a great job, they do, and the three of them make a dastardly troupe. Pontious Pilate (Andrew Grainger) wins me over within seconds, the conflict of his compassion and pure nastiness is clear; he is every bit the tortured torturer. Brilliant.

The next big thrill for me is when we meet Herod, played artfully and with the kind of comic ease that makes Madeleine Sami a genuine genius. There is some work for the chorus to do in getting themselves in synch but nothing that a couple of nights won’t set straight. Not that I really notice (this is me being picky) because Herod draws all of my focus. Love the swimming pool, love the conga line, I love the attitude, I LOVE IT ALL. 

Director Oliver Driver states in the programme notes that he wanted to raise the roof and give us the same sense of the musical as was delivered in the original of the 1970s. He has done that, involving and immersing the audience in the show. We are in no particular place, in no particular time. As someone raised in the church I feel he has bowed to, and remained ultimately respectful of, the true religious nature of the show: it’s not modern and yet it is… Does that even make sense? It will if you see this production.

This is proper innovation at work. I am gobsmacked. I can only imagine the challenge of putting together such a spectacle, and that Mister Driver must have had several sleepless nights while rolling this behemoth production over in his head. My hat is off: he has done a formidable job. 

Elizabeth Whiting is a legend and again her costuming is exceptional (white undies will never be the same again!). John Verryt’s set is simple and dynamic; the use of every space imaginable is inspired and for the most part well thought out. Seated front row (what a buzz, these are the best seats in the house usually) I find myself wishing I had been seated in the second tier as from time to time I miss the action due to the fact that I have cast and chorus members standing in front of me. Sean Lynch’s lighting is simple too, at times perhaps a little lacking (I would have liked to see Judas hang) yet by and large it effectively endorses the production’s timeless feeling.

Needless to say musical director Leon Radojkovic’s soundtrack is beyond good. To say it is stellar is simply not complimentary enough. 

The show ends in spectacular fashion, complete with ticker-tape and the kind of energy that makes it impossible to sit still. Part of me wants to get up and dance along with the cast, part of me wants it to never end, and somewhere inside me a great deal of pride wells up: we are doing this amazing work in little old New Zealand; how talented we are down here!


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