By Danielle Rehor
I heard there was a pool and a trampoline, as well as a stage built on a stage, and it was a musical, but nothing could have prepared me for the experience Godspell granted me. Opening week many raved about Godspell, saying it was the best play since The Drowsy Chaperone, the play that took the theater department to the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska two years ago. The hype for this play was so large I could not resist. Despite overbooking, and an eighth of the audience members sitting on the floor, it was worth it.
The musical theater class has one specific play purely made up of those students, around 26 in total. This year the play was the 1970’s Broadway hit Godspell. This hippie-fused play is based off of the biblical book of Matthew and includes many parables, such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.These short plays within plays give the play a sense of informality and even include a little audience participation in the form of pictionary and charades.
The first quarter of the play left me in a dazed state as the opening song, “Tower of Babel” included cell phones and business people, as well as Judas with a shofar. At this early point in the play, the biblical time combined with the modern age was very confusing. Additionally senior Missy Cathcart’s song, “Turn Back, O Man” seems to just conflict with itself as to whether she was being scandalous or humorous. However, with the performance of “By My Side,” my faith in musical theater had been restored.
The play successfully managed to act out parables and psalms while still being modern with its use of entertainment and political figures as the warned false prophets stated in the book of Matthew. The artful combination of modern day disciples and prophecy proved theater teacher Robbie Steiner’s directing capabilities and eye for unique works.
Though the upbeat songs and choreography may seem to summarize the play, “By My Side” was the turning point in which Godspell morphed from a confused mess into a cohesive play that I utterly enjoyed. The ballad performed by senior Kathryn Pryor as she sings to Jesus while Judas plots to betray him, is exceedingly haunting and regardless of religious beliefs is poignant.
The revamped pop music of the 70s hit truly fit the play and its aura. The music was exceptional, while still managing to reflect the mood during each aspect of the play. The group numbers and solos show real talent and potential within the theater program, including juniors Collin Jackson, Jade Dailey, Bailey Hussung and senior Cole Thorton. The group performances were more than just scenes in a script but the forming of a family as shown by the tears during the last Sunday performance of “On the Willows,” as Jesus says goodbye to his followers.
To say there was one specific part of Godspell that made it amazing is near impossible; however, what really set this play apart was that performers had the freedom to be themselves. With the exception of junior Collin Jackson as Jesus and junior Clay Gulley as Judas Iscariot and John the Baptist, no one had roles. The actors were able to create a caricatured version of themselves to play on stage. This play, set in current time, portrayed the faults that have haunted humans since Jesus’ age. Every actor gained something from the growth that occurred perfecting his or her imperfections, in a sense. The performance included many raw moments from all actors as they played themselves, without a mask.