Alicia Paterson, actress and music teacher, will be ticking another character off her bucket list of roles to play when the National Theatre Company stages Jesus Christ Superstar at the Civic Theatre next month.
“Mary Magdalene was on my list so I was very excited to find I could finally do that,” she smiled.
When the musical’s director, Chris Maxfield, told her the good news he decided to stretch her nerves just a little further, as if boththe audition and callback hadn’t been nerve-racking enough.
“He called and made it sound like I was unsuccessful, saying, ‘Look I’m really sorry… but we’d love you to play Mary,’”she laughed.
Since November every Sunday afternoon has been devoted to rehearsals, beginning with singing “It’s very physical, you have to learn all the songs before adding in blocking. That’s theatre talk for moving around the stage. The final stage is bringing it all together with costumes and the orchestra, led by musical director Greg Paterson.
“They are putting the orchestra on the stage. It’ll be different having them so close.
“Some people think ‘Ugh, Jesus Christ Superstar? No thanks, I’m not going to see a churchy musical but it’s a rock opera. There’s a 40-piece orchestra and the cast – their voices are spectacular. It’s going to sound phenomenal.”
‘Phenomenal’ is also how she remembers her first experience of musicals.
“It was Les Miserables in Sydney. I was seven. Loved it.”
Four years later she stumbled across The Sound of Music showing on TV.
“I was singing along to all the songs and the next day Mum contacted the choir director of my primary school.
“I cried when she told me; I didn’t want to sing in front of her. But she made me do it because she thought it was worth pursuing.”
This pursuit has seen Alicia rise from ensemble to leading lady, playing an array of characters including her personal favourites, Eponine from Les Miserables and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
There are more characters she wants to tick off too, if the chance arises, particularly Elphaba from Wicked and Anna, not Elsa, in a musical production of Frozen.
“Playing Mary Magdalene is interesting,” she muses, “an intriguing character I find. A colourful lady but there’s much more to her than that.
“She’s quite genuine, especially in her love of Jesus. She’s a loving, kind character. She faces challenges in her life like all women. I can identify with that.”
Like many women, Alicia is managing several commitments simultaneously: to the musical, her job as teacher at St Joseph’s Campus, Lochinvar, and as a mother raising three boys.
“It’s manageable when you love to do it. You find ways of coping.”
She recalls the buzz of excitement she felt after her first rehearsal.
“From the moment when we learnt the first song I went home and said to husband, ‘Oh my goodness, this is going to be amazing.’”
Please visit civictheatrenewcastle.com.au/whats-on.