Written by playwright and director John-Michael Tebelak while he was studying at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the musical was born out of Telblak’s attempts to put a new, fun spin on stories from the Bible, primarily from the Gospel of Matthew.
After it opened off-Broadway in 1971, Stephen Schwartz, known for composing scores to “Pippin” and “Wicked,” jumped on board as the musical’s composer, bringing a variety of songs from rock to vaudeville to the show.
Stories from the Bible such as The Good Samaritan, the story of the Pharisees and the parable of Lazarus are told using song, dance, games and different methods of storytelling using a cast of 10 people to play Jesus, Judas and a trope of followers. While Act 1 focuses on a cheery, playful take of Biblical parables, Act 2 takes a more emotional tone as it focuses on the crucifixion.
“If you look at the script, all of Jesus’ lines are pretty much verbatim scripture; they’re just put into modern-day speech which is pretty cool,” Director Emily Barnes said, adding, “The coolest thing about this musical is that it’s very raw forms of the people on stage — they got to make themselves be a part of this story.”
In addition to putting together this run of the show, Barnes performed in a production of the show in 2009 in her hometown. Since then, the show has had a Broadway revival with revamped songs and new material, but Barnes said she chose to stick to a lot of the original material for her vision of the play.
Some of the challenges of the play, she said, have been keeping a clear picture of the end product in mind during the five weeks she, the cast and the crew have been piecing the show together.
“They put this up in five weeks; most musicals you get six to eight weeks and it really shocked me when I realized we only had five weeks because even though it’s a small cast, this musical is not small by any means,” she said.
JCCT will have three more performances of “Godspell”: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets to the show are $12 and available at jccommunitytheatre.org or by reserving them at the box office by calling 491-5053.
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