Director no stranger to 'Superstar'

Playing the Son of God in Jesus Christ Superstar can be a cross to bear, but it is a challenge director Marty Newell is familiar with, having played the lead role in Queenstown 15 years ago.

He said the musical was ''an emotional roller coaster'' for the cast, especially Finley Brentwood as Jesus and Paul Halsted as Judas.

''You rip everything out of you and put it on stage,'' Newell said.

''It's an absolute hell-ride for those guys and I can empathise with what Finley is going through and what he needs to be given from the rest of the cast, so that's an advantage.

''I believe the character should be coming from within and from emotions they know as a person to draw on stage. They've got to use what's within their own lives.''

The roles call for emotional dexterity as well, as anger, confusion, isolation and love are all conveyed within Jesus' big numbers.

''If it's played to one emotion in the whole song, it's not working,'' Newell said.

Last year, Newell happened to watch clips online of the UK Arena Tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical, which toured to sell-out audiences and starred award-winning Tim Minchin as Judas, Spice Girl Melanie C as Mary and the winner of ITV2's Superstar, Ben Forster as Jesus.

He checked if the technical challenges of the modernised show could be met in Queenstown and if Wakatipu musicians, cast and crew were keen.

He asked fellow participants of the 1999 production if it was too soon for a reprise, but everyone embraced the opportunity.

Newell made a proposal to the Showbiz Queenstown committee, which included a plan, a budget and the names of those eager to be involved.

Committee members unanimously approved and the Queenstown Events Centre was booked to stage Jesus Christ Superstar from May 14-24.

This version is special as Newell is directing his wife for the first time, among the 32 cast members.

Emma Newell plays an apostle and one of the three ''soul girls''.

However, the director said he asks everyone to leave their personal lives at the door and focus on rehearsals and the Newells are no exception.

''We talk about the show at home, but I don't analyse her performance and she's not getting any special directing treatment at home that the others aren't getting,'' Newell said.

''It's a fresh creative team, but we're working hard and the cast and crew can't wait to start rehearsing in the memorial centre.''