Cambridge High School was far from alone when its plans for a student production were upturned by Covid-19.
But it was one of few schools to push through with its musical, which CHS brought to the stage — albeit in a COVID-appropriate, condensed form.
The cast and crew presented three musical numbers from their planned production of Jesus Christ Superstar — What’s the Buzz, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Temple — to students, parents and staff. The three songs were also professionally recorded for distribution to the wider community.
Peter Cook, the teacher behind the production efforts, said there were times where he thought the musical simply would not be able to go ahead. But “there were a number of us behind the scenes thinking: we’ve got to do something; we’ve got to try to do something.”
“There was a point where we thought: we stop the show now and do something next year,” Cook said. “But then we had seniors in leading roles who were leaving next year. That would’ve been pretty hard on them. So we fought really hard to get something done.”
So CHS’ principal Greg Thornton came up with the idea to present the team’s efforts as a recorded concert. Cook and musical director Larissa Schumacher then set about refining Jesus Christ’s 26 numbers into 11 concert-suitable songs.
But then Level Two hit again, as well as licensing issues with the concert idea — so they were forced to narrow the musical down to three songs.
Cook said he thought it was “critical” that the students still had a channel for their efforts.
“The kids had battled and battled. And these kids had won key roles in a major musical, so to have done nothing would’ve been quite hard. These are kids that have done 250 hours of work.”
Cook said each of the students who sang in the final performance stuck it out through the whole process: lockdown, legal challenges and all.
“The two that were most affected, and the two I’m most proud of were Jack Redpath and Josh Bam — they had won the two key roles of Jesus and Judas,” Cook said.
The standout staff member — Cook said — was musical director Larissa Schumacher. “Shows were being cancelled all around us, but we held on. Yes, there were times when we thought, all of this is going to end in tears and nothing. But she was able to adjust, overcome, and maintain the musical directorship.”
Jayne Tankersley, the vocal coach, also played a key role in the performance. She was “the reason it sounded as good as it did,” Cook said.
It is planned to that the three musical numbers presented will go up on Cambridge High’s Facebook page and, licensing dependent, one of the numbers will feature on YouTube.