Showing Judas in a fresh light

Jesus Christ Superstar' Tim Rogers as Judas Iscariot - credit Pamela Raith Photography
Jesus Christ Superstar' Tim Rogers as Judas Iscariot - credit Pamela Raith Photography

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ground-breaking rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, returns to the Lyceum Theatre on Monday for a two-week run with Glenn Carter in the title role and 
X Factor finalist Rhydian 
Roberts as Pontius Pilate.

Australian actor Tim Rogers takes the role of Judas Iscariot and says he is on something of a mission.

“Part of why I wanted to do this job is because I kind of wanted to rehabilitate Judas in people’s perception,” he says. “He is misunderstood, I think, and Glenn and I really want to establish the trust and friendship early on in the show. But then it’s so heartbreakingly dissolved towards the end. So I’m just trying to make his journey a little more understandable.

“It is technically a massive thing, it’s one of the most difficult roles in music theatre. And as well as balancing all that with the emotional content and the stakes that you’re betraying your best friend, who is the Son of God. But it’s Judas who tells Jesus, ‘Listen, this is all getting a bit out of hand, all this God stuff.’ Because basically, the Jews were trying to get a home.

“The Jewish race didn’t have a homeland and Jerusalem looked like it might be, but it was occupied by Rome. So Judas was interested in getting them out quietly, whereas Jesus, the whole God thing was getting so much attention, which put Judas and the movement at risk. So it’s pretty taxing, but I love it and it’s a gift of a role, so I’m delighted to be playing it.”

Rogers says he first appeared in Jesus Christ Superstar in 1983 in high school and has been a big fan of it ever since, going on to tour in Australian productions as Peter and understudying Jesus but always wanted to play Judas.

“And he’s not a bad guy, he’s conflicted, but without Judas’s betrayal, none of it would have happened anyway” he says. “I’m not particularly religious, I’m spiritual but I went to a Catholic school and I have a lot of time for Christianity. I know the Bible and I’m aware of the story. But there are so many different takes on it, each Gospel tells it slightly differently and each Gospel portrays Judas differently. And Judas is progressively painted worse and worse as that was the politics of the time.”

“So it’s a big responsibility to play it but ultimately, this is the story, based on the Bible and I want to tell it as truthfully and as compassionately as I can.”

As to what brought Rogers to the UK: “My mum was English so I could work over here, and I came over in 2000 to play the role of Tony in West Side Story,” says the actor who has subsequently been in such shows as Carousel, Whistle Down The Wind and Jersey Boys. “I basically just wanted to improve and I felt like I’d started to stagnate a little bit in Australia so I thought, ‘Right, I’m moving countries, get in a bigger puddle and continue to improve and grow’, and I feel like I have. And here I am, 15 years later!”

Jesus Christ Superstar is at the Lyceum Theatre from Monday until May 2.