Department of Theatre To Present The Musical Godspell
Building a community is the focus of Godspell, the classic musical of the 1970s being performed February 28 and March 1-4 by East Stroudsburg University’s department of theatre.
Grammy- and Academy-Award winner Stephen Schwartz’s first major work, Godspell, retells parables from the Gospels for contemporary times in a fresh, engaging style with dance, stories, and a hefty dose of comedy.
Using vaudeville, burlesque, folk, rock and pop genres, Schwartz composed many memorable songs, including hits such as “Day by Day,”“Beautiful City,” and “Turn Back, O Man,” which enhance the musical’s message of kindness, tolerance and love. Schwartz has updated the piece with references to current political and cultural issues in society to connect with today’s audiences.
“Originally conceived by a group of university students, Godspell is the perfect vehicle to showcase the talents of ESU’s growing musical theatre program” said Margaret Ball, D.M.A., professor and chair of theatre and director of the ESU production. “The cast and crew are particularly focused on a note Schwartz included in the script which states ‘Godspell must be about the formation of a community,’” Ball added.
“The whole show is built around community,” said cast member Emily McDermott, a freshman from Philadelphia, Pa. majoring in musical theatre. “We’re doing a lot of team-building exercises rather than traditional scene blocking. Once the cast comes together as a group, the blocking will flow.”
“This is a very cast-involved show,” added Marcell McKenzie, a junior from Kunkletown, Pa. who also is majoring in musical theatre. “Essentially, you’re playing yourself, but you have to find your own uniqueness, and to work out how your character relates to the rest of the cast.”
For Na’Zir Postell, a freshman from Levittown, Pa. majoring in musical theatre, working out his character meant figuring out “who’s my friend and who’s not my friend. I also had to figure out when my character makes the choice to become part of the group.”
“At first, the show was hard for me to work on because I’m not used to this kind of musical,” noted Marti Goodfellow, a sophomore from Voorhees, N.J. majoring in digital media technology and theatre. “My character is meant to be a provocative, funny woman, and I had to do a lot of self-examination to connect to the character. It’s difficult, but it’s a challenge I’m willing to take on.”
Jalon Mathis, a freshman majoring in musical theatre from Bethlehem, Pa. faced a different challenge than the rest of the cast. His character, Judas, is one of the few defined by the script. “Judas considers Jesus to be his best friend, but doesn’t always agree with his actions, and questions things that he can’t understand,” Mathis explained, “In the end, Judas can’t connect to the group, so he betrays Jesus. On stage, he’s often isolated, not with the group.”
“Communication is the key to building this production,” added McKenzie, “and because the theatre department has developed a solid foundation for us to work with, we can do this show at this time.”
McKenzie also is serving as dance captain for the show, assisting theatre department alumna Tara Coyle in choreographing the show. Since several of the cast members belong to the campus step team, McKenzie has incorporated step-dancing into some of the choreography to make it more relevant to students on ESU’s campus.
Other members of the creative team for Godspell include: scenic and lighting designer Christopher Domanski, associate professor of theatre; guest costume designer Fan Zhang; guest music director Ruth Kochera; and student sound designer Joshua Weidenbaum, a junior from Saylorsburg, Pa. who is majoring in musical theatre.
Curtain times for the ESU production of Godspell are 7:30 p.m. February 28 and March 1-2; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 3; and 2 p.m. March 4. All performances are in the Smith-McFarland Theatre of the university’s Fine and Performing Arts Center, Normal and Marguerite streets, East Stroudsburg.
General admission, $12; senior citizens, faculty and staff, with ID, are $10; students, with ID, are $7; and youth, 13 and under, are $5. This play is recommended for ages eight and above.
Tickets are available online in advance at esu.edu/theatretickets (credit cards only online). Remaining tickets are available at the box office one hour before curtain on performance dates (cash and checks only at the box office). For other information or reservations, please email email@example.com or call 570-422-3483.