Godspell’s individuality challenges cast members


Kaley Martin

Senior Lindsey McCumber belts out the ending notes to her song “Bless the Lord ” during Open House on Oct. 12. “Godspell” opens on Nov. 15 and tickets can be purschased on the JC website.

Senior Lindsey McCumber’s brow furrows as she finds herself confused about the most recent parable in “Godspell,” this year’s fall musical. Fortunately for McCumber, she is able to seek the help of director Larry Hensley. “This isn’t a typical show, it can be pretty tricky to understand. Our job as actors is to make the somewhat confusing script understandable to the audience. I sometimes just need someone to help me,” McCumber said with a laugh.

“It’s a series of parables put to song, put to dance,” producer Laura Lang said. “It’s not ‘Beauty and the Beast.'”

One unique aspect of “Godspell” is the set design. The show has only one setting, which is up to the director. For this production, it is a JC classroom. “[The show] emphasizes props and story as opposed to set design,” Lang said. Props are used to act out the parables, which have a modern twist, as the production is the 2012 Broadway revival version, not the original 1972 version.

“All the music is jazzed up,” director Larry Hensley said. Hensley has seen “Godspell” multiple times and performed in it once himself.

“Godspell” keeps everyone onstage for the whole show. The actors must keep up with what is happening at every moment, according to junior Scott Walczyk, a lead.

“There is no set in the script,” Walczyk said. “It’s harder because you can’t memorize your lines in blocks.” Walczyk plays the role of “Nick” from the 2012 revival. However during the show, all characters except Jesus and Judas are simply called by the cast members’ names.

“I needed an energetic, diverse group [of actors] because the character is you, you are yourself,” Hensley said.

Junior Brady Fritz plays the role of Jesus. “It’s fun. I enjoy the Jesus jokes,” Fritz said. He memorizes his lines page by page, reading the script from the beginning to the most recent page he’s learned.

The role of Judas is played by freshman Zach Miller. “What’s unique about Judas is that in the first act you can see that he and Jesus are really good friends. In the second act, he goes and betrays Jesus, so I think Judas is a very dynamic character,” Miller said.

“I told the cast, ‘This is like AP Drama,'” Hensley said. “It forces cast members to be creative.”

Lang is positive about the progress and dedication of the cast. “The kids never fail to surprise us. They are just amazing,” Lang said. She expects the show to be “fabulous.”

According to Lang, the plot is not as clear as in previous productions, which will make it harder to sell tickets.

“The challenge is to make it [the plot] clear to people,” Miller said.

Another possible difficulty for ticket sales is the religious aspect of “Godspell.” “We don’t want people to stay away because they think they’re going to be preached to. We don’t want people to think it’s only a religious experience,” Lang said

Part of the benefit of staging the show in a JC religion classroom is the ability to reference school happenings and tap into the audience’s common experience. “I included as many ‘John Carrollisms’ as I could,” Hensley said. Other modern references include Borat and Donald Trump.

“In general, the audience can be anybody,” Hensley said. “However, I have told the cast that we’re targeting middle and high school students. We want to be on their level.”

The music and dancing for “Godspell” is varied and upbeat. Some of the dancing is left up to the individual actors to create. “”Godspell” is the kind of show that can be done anywhere. It can morph into anything,” Hensley said.

“We are so lucky to have Mr. Hensley and [choreographer] Mrs. B. They demand that these kids dance, and dance well, so you’ll see dancing that you won’t see in other schools,” Lang said. Along with the script and music, choreography booklets are available for schools to purchase, but the theater department choreographs its own routines.

“Every number is fun,” Hensley said. “Every song you can have a different style, and you can do anything.”

“It’s very colorful. It’s always changing, always moving,” Lang said.

President Richard O’Hara is looking forward to seeing the production. “I saw the rehearsals during Open House, and I can’t wait. It looks like yet another amazing show.”

Kathy Deaver is a Sports Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.