Godspell the 1971 off-Broadway musical hit that caused a sensation and went on to become an international hit, is coming to the Burnett Center stage Palm Sunday weekend to kick off the 2022 Messiah Festival of the Arts. The Bethany College Theatre – Messiah Festival of the Arts production of the 2012 revised version of the musical, goes up Saturday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 10, at 3:00 p.m. in Burnett Center.
According to Bethany, Godspell was conceived by John-Michael Tebelak, who based it on the gospels of Luke and Matthew. A group of eleven individuals gather; into their midst comes Jesus, who begins to tell them stories–parables. Before long, the members of the group join in to help Him, using a combination of song, dance, pantomime, vaudeville, and the techniques of story theatre. Slowly, throughout Act One, Jesus is attempting to build a community.
Act Two begins on the same high note of fun and coming together as a community. Things begin to change, however, as the upbeat mood “[dissolves] hauntingly into the Last Supper and the Crucifixion.” Will this newly formed community be able to withstand the loss of its charismatic leader and take His “message of kindness, tolerance, and love” into the wider world?
Stephen Schwartz, the Tony Award-nominated and Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer/lyricist whose works include Wicked, Pippin, Children of Eden, and The Prince of Egypt, made his musical theatre debut with Godspell in 1971. The musical is packed with great songs: “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “Learn Your Lessons Well,” “All for the Best,” “All Good Gifts,” “Turn Back, O Man,” and the international hit “Day by Day,” written by Schwartz, and the beautiful “By My Side,” written by Peggy Gordon and Jay Hamburger.
The revised version of Godspell reflects the changes made to the 2012 Broadway revival of the musical. According to Schwartz, the revised edition includes “slight cuts, changes, and structural reorganization.” There are some new orchestrations, and some references have been updated to better reflect “current sensibilities.” Schwartz notes that “the character names of the 2012 version have been changed to those of that Broadway cast, rather than the names of the original cast in the original version,” to help better distinguish them from the characters in the original script.
Prof. Greg LeGault, Associate Professor of Theatre and the production’s director, stated that the selection of Godspell for the 2022 Messiah Festival of the Arts reflects this year’s festival’s theme: servant leadership. “Who better displays the qualities attributed to a servant leader—empathy, honesty, foresight, healing, community building—than Jesus Christ?” LeGault asked. “Godspell seems a perfect fit.”
The Bethany College Theatre production features a the dual role of John the Baptist and Judas. The eleven disciples-in-training include Maya Herrera (Brighton, CO), Ben Turner (Colorado Springs, CO), Madison Price (Salina, KS), Elyse Boden (Goessel, KS), Tony Robb (Westmorland, KS), Aubrey Larson (Russell, KS), Carla Aguilar (Salina, KS), Christian LaCourt (Wichita, KS), and Addison Haiden, Gracie Gaskill, and Elise Nelson (Lindsborg, KS).
Prof. Leslie Mangrum, Assistant Professor of Music, is the musical director. Others lending their considerable talents to the production include Julie Holk (costumes), Eric and Michele Johnson (lights); Angela and Lauren Dolezal (choreography), John Wood and Indigo Guise (sound), and a group of talented Bethany College students and alums on set construction and painting and props.
“We are also grateful to Broadway RFD, Eric for their help and generosity with the production,” said LeGault.
The curtain rises on Godspell on Saturday, April 9, at 7:30 and Palm Sunday, April 10, at 3:00 in Burnett Center on the Bethany College campus. General admission tickets are $20.00 for adults and $10.00 for students under 12. Tickets are available at www.messiahfestival.org. Seating is limited so please order them ahead of time.
Masks are required regardless of vaccination status.