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West Ferris resurrects Jesus Christ Superstar

West Ferris theatre students have heaven on their minds.

All in preparation for the school’s epic revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, the famous rock opera musical by Andrew Lloyed Webber and Tim Rice. Since premiering on Broadway in the fall of 1971, the piece has been performed countless times around the world, and now it’s time for the West Ferris Secondary School Trojan Theatre Company to revive the classic.

‘It’s the biggest show we’ve ever had,” long-time West Ferris teacher Allan MacAskill proclaimed, which is saying something, as West Ferris’ theatre program is known for producing impressive shows.

MacAskill has had a hand in many of these shows. He’s been involved with theatre and acting for most of his life and has been guiding the West Ferris drama program for 25 years. He is directing this show, and as this will be his last hurrah at West Ferris – he’s retiring – he “wanted to go out with a bang.”

So, it shall be. The cast is massive, with around 65 students working hard to bring the show to life. Plus, there is the crew. Not to mention a nine-piece band playing live on stage to back the singers. It takes a lot of time to pull off a production of this scope, and all the students involved receive credit for their time. This production is a class unto itself.

The story revolves around the final days of Jesus Christ’s life, focusing on the conflicts between Jesus, his disciples, the people, with special attention paid to the fractured relationship between Judas Iscariot and Jesus. The work is one of Webber’s grittiest, with little dialogue – the songs are the thing – and frenetic choreography driven by rock, folk, and funk influenced grooves.

Abby Alexander and James Devuono are playing the leads of Judas and Jesus, and are eager for opening night. Both have long theatre backgrounds, all of which have guided them to the stage ahead. Alexander was involved with TOROS and Summer Challenge. She started honing her acting craft in the seventh grade – “I’ve always had a love for it.”

Devuono is also a Summer Challenge alum, and he too hit the stage early. He was eight years old, and his teacher at the time noticed a spark, which inspired Devuono to pursue the craft.

“It’s been quite the evolution,” Devuono joked about preparing to play the role of Jesus Christ. “It’s been a long way to get to where I am now,” and he’s ready for the big show.

Alexander could relate, as she’s playing a female Judas, which admittedly was a bit of a leap. However, she was drawn to the character, and knew she could put her stamp on the role. “That’s one of the things I love most about theatre,” she said, “once you’re comfortable with your character you can play with it and mould it to what it ends up being onstage.”

No doubt, the show will be bitter-sweet for their teacher and mentor Allan MacAskill. However, he knows the theatre program within West Ferris “is really flourishing,” so he knows the students are in good hands.

“It’s been a really wonderful way to end my career,” he added, “working with these fantastic students.”

Jesus Christ Superstar plays at West Ferris Secondary School, in the Auditorium, at 60 Marshall Park Drive, North Bay. There are three shows, Thursday February 29, Friday March 1, and Saturday March 2. All shows start at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are $15 and can be purchased online via ShowTix4U.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca