October 17, 2013
"Godspell" Tickets On Sale Online
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Many southern families—particularly those involved in a Christian school—have heard the gospel countless times, to the point where perhaps it loses some of its powerful effect. However, these families may now find new meaning in this timeless story, as it is to be presented through a different lens.
But, an audience who thinks they already know the story are sure to be spellbound by the Prince Avenue Christian School Fine Arts Department’s next masterpiece.
Rehearsals have been underway since the first week of school for Stephen Schwartz’s musical Godspell, which will be performed on Thursday, October 17 at 7:00 pm and Saturday, October 19 at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.
The musical, based on the Gospel of Matthew, is structured as a series of parables, interspersed with modern music with lyrics from traditional Episcopal and Lutheran hymns. Drama instructor and director of the musical Joseph Strickland called the work a “rock opera.”
“Often people hear the word ‘opera’ and imagine the Viking helmet on the lady with the pitchfork,” Strickland said. “This is more along the lines of a modern sound.”
Since the first week of school, the cast of the show has shown true dedication and diligence, rehearsing as a group up to 10 hours weekly, with additional individual hours spent learning music and lines. Some cast members even come to work on their parts during their study hall periods during the school day.
Strickland said having a small, 11-member cast poses some challenges for the department, but that the cast members have shown they are up to the task and are growing in the arts as a result.
“A rehearsal really can’t happen unless we’re all there because if we’re missing one person we only have 10 cast members,” Strickland said. “So a small show puts a lot of pressure on people, but what it also gives us a chance to showcase the depth of talent we have in this school.”
Fine Arts Director LaMurl Morris, who has worked with the cast on the music for the show, said this particular cast is more experienced than in previous shows because of many of those members’ participation in productions from years past.
“Several of them have been involved in fine arts since they were in elementary school,” Morris said. “We also have some freshmen that are in this production and—although they’ve been in some of our past shows and have been in our classes—it’s been a stretch for them because they’re working with students who have more experience, so they’ve really had to push themselves.”
There are two biblically-based roles in the show: Jesus, played by senior Christopher Stiles, and Judas, played by junior Luke Wallace. The remaining nine cast members play versions of themselves, in order to represent how man relates to Christ.
The personal nature of the show is another challenge cast members must overcome, Strickland said.
“In other shows, we have had several principal actors and then a large ensemble behind them, but Godspell doesn’t have that,” Strickland said.
“There is no hiding in this show. Every person sings a solo on their own; every person is responsible for almost an entire vocal section…with full-speed choreography.”
Despite the potentially daunting responsibilities allotted to each cast member, Prince Avenue’s students have accepted the challenge with open minds and hearts, allowing themselves to be completely immersed in their roles, to the point of understanding the gospel story more deeply and more personally.
“When we blocked and staged the finale…the cast members were bawling—and that was just the first time,” Strickland said. “I told them, ‘Part of this emotion is that you are responding to the crucifixion and the death of Christ the same way we hopefully would if we saw it face to face. Don’t be afraid of that onstage.’”
Stiles said he was surprised when he was cast as Jesus, and that, while the show has been fun, it has also proved difficult in some ways.
“I have to be authentic,” Stiles said. “I can’t say the gospel like I’ve heard it my entire life. It has to be like the first time I’ve heard everything.”
The cast’s receptive hearts have allowed them to fully embrace the message of the Gospel of Matthew, and more than that, to grasp the personal nature of the story and what it means for each of God’s children. Stiles said his biggest takeaway from this production will be that he won’t be able to view the crucifixion of Jesus in the same way.
Morris said the rehearsal process is also beneficial spiritually for the cast because the Bible says to meditate on Scripture, and in rehearsing so much, the story “becomes a part of you.”
“I would hope that people would put aside preconceived notions they might have about this musical, because it has been done in many, many different ways,” Morris said. “I would hope that they would come and be a part of what we’re trying to show here with the gospel and to take a look at it maybe in a different way—in a way that might, perhaps, shift our thinking about Jesus and His followers.”
Strickland said the show is “powerful.”
“Don’t be afraid of coming out and letting God work on you a little bit,” Strickland said. “It’s a show worth seeing, and the audience will not be disappointed.”
Godspell will be performed in the Prince Avenue Baptist Church Children’s Theatre. Tickets may be purchased for $11 through the school’s website or for $15 at the door.
The cast will also enter a one-act version of Godspell in the region competition at Piedmont College on October 26.
The cast includes seniors Gracie Brownlee and Chris Stiles, juniors Rachel Adams, Cole Hurley, Luke Wallace, and Josh Whalen, sophomores Will Adams, Will Douglas, and Joy Harris, and freshmen Cailyn Bloodworth and Macy Frazier, with junior Scott Aldin as a sound and light technician and junior Rachel Steele as stage manager.