The moment Zoy Frangos stepped out of his audition for the role of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, he saw the Who’s Who of Australian music theatre waiting to go next.
“I thought to myself that there’s no chance I’d get the part,” he remembers.
“I went there thinking I had nothing to lose, I sang really well, left thinking that it was nice to go in and then I just put it to bed.”
He was mistaken. A week later the producers called him and offered him the role. Not long after came the official seal of approval from London, from Andrew Lloyd Webber.
“It was pretty amazing,” admits Zoy, knowing that this was not as easy a feat as he makes it sound.
“I put all this work for years and years and it’s finally paying off now.”
It took a gamble from him to get there. Because when that happened, he’d only recently declined an extension on another contract.
“I was in the ensemble cast of My Fair Lady last year and I’d had enough of understudy roles,” he says.
“I wanted to play lead and I knew that if I’d stayed I may never get the chance. So I took a risk, saying no to eight months of extra work and then this came up. I’ve been really fortunate.”
Talking about this gamble, he mentions his father offering him advice and moral support: “You didn’t quit your job as a graphic designer to be an ensemble member in the back of a show, aim for the big time,” he said to his son.
“I was lucky to have that support from my parents,” says Zoy, describing how he one day walked up to his father, a fishmonger from Mytikas and told him that he wanted to be an actor. “If you want to do it, go out and do it,” was his response. “You only live once.”
Zoy Frangos grew up in Ballarat, in an extended family deeply connected to Greece, through food, mostly.
“There was a great Greek community there, when I was a kid, a lot was happening,” he remembers. “It is a shame that it has died out. I guess it has become more integrated.”
For him, being Greek is something that definitely comes up in his work.
“I have a few Greek friends who are in music theatre as well and when I see their performances, I see the same thing that I’m proud of – this Greek passion that we share, a rawness that we bring in our performances,” he says.
“Music theatre can be quite sterile and very safe, and we have that fire, that comes from growing up in these loud families who argue all the time and you have to make yourself heard. I love losing myself in passionate roles and I owe it to my Greek heritage.”
As far as passionate roles go, you can’t do much better than Judas. “Between Judas and Jesus, I always preferred the role of Judas,” he admits.
“Especially growing up Greek Orthodox, for me the name itself is synonymous with betrayal. I never like to think of people as one thing, I believe that everyone in life has light and shade in them; we all have good and bad in us. As human beings, we are all fallible, we can all do horrible things.
“In this particular show, Judas gets the most interesting moments. How do you get to the point of betraying your best friend? How do you justify that as a person? What does that do to you? That kind of torment appeals to me as an actor. I’m not playing Judas as a villain, but as a man who desperately cares for Jesus and really wants to help him out; he is betraying him to save him. I don’t want the audience to walk away judging him that harshly, I want to humanise him as a character you can empathise with and I want to be really convincing in that.”
‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ runs from 29 July to 13 August at Arts Centre Melbourne. For bookings, call 1300 182 183 or click here.