Theater Review: Jesus Christ Superstar in rehearsal at Guilford High

After taking a group of students to a production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Shubert Theatre in Chicago, Leslie Biesbrouck, who heads the Theater Department at Guilford High School, decided that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock musical based on the last days of Christ’s life would be the major effort this year. The students were enthralled with the piece, amazed at the story and musical score. Biesbrouck met with Principal Yolanda Simmons and gained approval for the project.

Many so-called extra-curricular activities are not funded by the Board of Education, so finances became a problem. Consulting with students, the point was made that fund-raisers would be essential—no budget, no costumes. A holiday show, It’s a Wonderful Life played to sold-out houses, making possible a show involving nearly 150 students, faculty and parents.

When questioned concerning a sometimes controversial play, Biesbrouck said there had been some objections. A few parents did not allow their students to participate, and posters have been torn down. Overall, support has been strong. The staff at Guilford, when not directly involved, feels a sense of ownership. John Wahlquist is musical director, Rick Nolting directs the orchestra, Thom Davis does costume design, Lon Hoeberg handles lighting, and George Harnish of Auburn High designed the set.

Still in the construction stages, the many-leveled set includes a ramp running through the center of the auditorium. Stone walls and arches give a historical context of the Roman occupation of the Holy Land. Modern costumes bring a sense of understanding to the students. Jesus Christ Superstar becomes accessible, not just a biblical story of the past.

A graduate of Hononegah High School, Biesbrouck attended Millikin University and received her BFA from NIU. Following graduation, she taught in Riverside, Calif., returning here five years ago to assume her position at Guilford. Her obvious love of theater and all that it entails makes her work a joy. When public criticism of our schools occurs, people need to recognize the devotion of teachers like Leslie Biesbrouck.

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