Part 4 of a series looking backstage at the upcoming Mainstage Production

Twenty-four. That’s the number of songs the vocalists and musicians had to learn for The University of Lethbridge Production of Jesus Christ Superstar with Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lyrics by Tim Rice*.

“If you like music that gets you dancing; if you like watching people get up and dance as a group, this is the show for you,” says Dr. Sandra Stringer, Instructor III in the music department and vocal director for the show. “This is the kind of show where the music just makes you want to get up and move and if you know the music, you want to sing along to it.”
Dr. Sandra Stringer, vocal director

The adventure began last year at auditions with director Doug MacArthur, musical director Bente Hansen (BMus ’86) and Stringer.

“We do have some students from the music department who are studying instruments or studying singing who are part of the show,” says Stringer. “Many of them are from drama and don’t read music so it was an interesting process to bring these two kinds of people together.”

 The 25-member ensemble met in December of last year for a couple of rehearsals before the holiday break. In January, the intensity picked up with four rehearsals a week. Some cast members, like Franz Faeldo (who portrays Jesus), are studying voice with Stringer while others are studying drama, leading to a full range of voices represented in the cast.

Franz Faehlo, who portrays Jesus, rehearses one of his songs on stage. The pylons are in place to alert performers to the edge of the stage.

“We’re fortunate to have enough variety in the kinds of voices to be able to do the harmonies that are in the score,” says Stringer. “It’s quite a complex score harmonically for a group like this to take on.”

Despite the fast-paced schedule, Stringer says she feels blessed to participate.

“It’s been such a great experience,” she says. “The students gave me so much energy, I was so happy to come to rehearsal every day.”

On the musical side, Hansen, in addition to serving as the rehearsal pianist, put together a 12-piece orchestra including keyboards, drum set, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, flute, clarinet, trombone, trumpet, French horn and tenor saxophone. During performances the orchestra will be in the pit, an area that spans the front of the stage and is about eight feet below stage height, while Hansen will serve as the conductor. Being involved in the musical is a dream come true for Hansen.

Jessica White, a Fine Arts student, plays the keyboard while watching conductor Bente Hansen at the sitzprobe.
 “I saw the movie when it came out; I was like 10 or 11,” says Hansen. “My brother had the album and, if he was gone, I would sneak into his room and play it. I know all the songs inside out and backward. I always wanted to play it so when Doug (MacArthur) approached me and asked if I wanted to be the musical director I was like ‘Oh, my God, yes!’”

The musicians, including first-year through to graduating students, have rehearsed every Saturday for at least three hours since the semester started. Then, at the beginning of March, the singers and musicians came together for a sitzprobe, a German word meaning seated rehearsal. During the sitzprobe, many ingredients were combined — the music, the vocals and the sound levels. In further rehearsals leading up to the live performances, they’ll continue to refine not only the music and vocals but also the choreography, blocking and acting.

Bente Hansen conducts the orchestra at the sitzprobe.

“We have amazing directorial and technical teams,” says Hansen. “For a show that is as complex as this one is, things are falling into place so nicely and all of these people are just an absolute joy to work with.”

Kelly Roberts (BFA - Drama Performance '91), audio technician, and Brooke Jenkins, a Fine Arts student, check sound levels during the sitzprobe.

 *JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of The Really Useful Group.