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5 Questions with Jesus, Judas and Mary

Opening next week at Riverside we have Packemin Productions’ iconic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Leading the cast in the role of Jesus is Joe Kalou, who has just finished performing in In the Heights at the Opera House. Playing Judas is Toby Francis who was recently seen in the lead role of Charlie in Kinky Boots and the infamous Mary is played by Brittanie Shipway, last seen in Sport for Jove’s Rose Riot!
We sat down with Joe, Toby and Brittanie to get a little bit of an insight into their lives and what audiences can expect from Jesus Christ Superstar.

  1. What inspired you to become a performer?

Joe: As a kid I began as an instrumentalist. That feeling of performance, showing a side of yourself that is seldom seen, struck me deep in my heart. As I grew older performing at times without an instrument really opened my entire world. Performance is a creative world with endless possibilities.

Toby Francis as Judas, Joe Kalou as Jesus and Brittanie Shipway as Mary – Grant Leslie Photography

Toby:  I get asked this a lot and I can’t say I know. I just feel like I can’t do anything else. Every other job I’ve ever had left me feeling like I was out of place. This is the only thing that feels right.

Brittanie: It’s such a boring answer, but I’ve just always sung. Music and storytelling is such a huge part of my life, and I just wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I wasn’t involved in theatre in some way.

  1. If you could have dinner with one character from any musical or play, who would it be and why?

Joe: Probably the Genie from Aladdin, cause he’s a genie! Hahaha. Joke’s aside, I would honestly say Jesus.

Toby: Not Judas. He’d betray me after. Probably Thadeus because no one really remembers that he was an Apostle so I don’t think he gets many dinner invites.

Brittanie: Oh this is such a hard question… Probably Lady Macbeth (Shakespeare’s Macbeth). Or Mrs. Lovett (Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd). Ooh or Cersei Lannister! (I know she’s from TV series Game of Thrones, but why not?) Any dark, whacky female character that I’d never meet in real life really. I’m all about the female villain.

  1. What are you most looking forward to about Jesus Christ Superstar?

Joe: Really exploring the relationships Jesus has with different characters. And feeling those relationships evolve as the show goes on.

Toby: Getting it in front of an audience. Neil (Gooding) has so many new ideas for this show, things that are striking and interesting, that make me look at the show and think, “why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?” Things that are obvious but only once someone has put them in place, you know? I’m excited to see the audience respond to them because I think they’re killer.

Brittanie: The sitzprobe is always my favourite; it’s the first time the cast gets to sing with the orchestra, and it’s always so beautiful and moving. The music is always the soul of a show, and it’s what makes Jesus Christ Superstar so memorable and epic.

  1. What is it like playing such a well-known persona and working on such an iconic show?

Joe: It’s incredible and humbling. I’m very religious myself… so to be portraying such a character is very humbling.

Toby: Judas is a bit of a dream role of mine. I think he’s misunderstood. Not just in the sense that emotionally he’s troubled but because his role in the crucifixion of Jesus is misunderstood. Someone had to betray Jesus so that he could die for everyone’s sins, right? And once Jesus makes his sacrifice, he gets to go back up to heaven and chill with his Dad and the Angels but Judas is relegated to hell by all Christian doctrine. So Judas, in a way, makes the ultimate sacrifice for humanity. He doesn’t know it, but he does. Doomed for all eternity but the catalyst for salvation. I like that about him. In my mind, he’s an idealist trying to protect Jesus and his brothers, the Apostles. He hands Jesus over to die without knowing that death is coming. Nazareth has no law to condemn a man to death, Judas knows this. He thinks Jesus will be jailed or whipped or punished but ultimately he will live. But they hand him to the Romans to do the dirty work and that’s why Judas kills himself. He never wanted the end to come as it did, he wanted to save 11 of his closest friends from death. And in doing so, he saved all humanity from it. That’s it in a nutshell for me.

Brittanie: It’s great! I mostly try and avoid listening to other versions of Mary too closely (who wants to hear a copy of a copy of a show?), so it’s been fun to play around with it a bit and make her my own. I’m trying to bring out a bit of middle-eastern flair in her, so I’m harking back to my Turkish heritage a bit. Peter Hayward (fabulous Musical Director extraordinaire) has been most patient.

  1. If you could describe the show in 3 words what would they be?

Joe: Strong. Engaging. Epic.

Toby: Jesus Christ Superstar.

Brittanie: Oh. My. God. (See what I did there? Clever.)

Joe, Toby and Brittanie perform in Jesus Christ Superstar at Riverside Theatres, February 8 – 27, 2019.

Haji Myrteza as Caiaphas, Jenna Woolley as Annas, Joe Kalou as Jesus, Toby Francis as Judas, Brittanie Shipway as Mary, Gavin Brightwell as Pilate and Simon Peppercorn as King Herod – Grant Leslie Photography

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