Godspell shines as “Light of JC”

After Erin Huffer’s impersonation of Elvis, the disciples (freshman Zack Miller, senior Lindsey McCumber, junior Emma Kleinberg, senior Erin Huffer, junior Scott Walczyk, junior Erin Sullivan) turn to see if Karly Horn will forgive her servant’s debt. This was one of many parables that Jesus and the disciples performed in a play-within-a-play format.

The lights bathe the stage in red as Judas ties Jesus to the blackboard. The disciples and the company kneel, praying as Jesus’s last few notes seem to pierce the air. The moment is solemn, with heavy guitar and rock music echoing as Jesus dies.

JC’s fall musical “Godspell” is filled with parables in little skits, pop culture references, and unique songs. The script is from the 2012 revival version, but the cast has customized and changed many of the lines. Director Larry Hensley made many interesting choices which set the show apart from other musicals. The casting of the disciples: junior Emma Kleinberg, junior Scott Walczyk, senior Lindsey McCumber, senior Karly Horn, senior Mitchell Russell, senior Erin Huffer, junior Erin Sullivan, and senior Travis Nelson is on-point. As is the casting of Judas, played by freshman Zach Miller, and Jesus, played by junior Brady Fritz. Each of these actors bring energy and talent to the stage.

The setting of the show is religion teacher Joseph Gallen’s classroom, which brings a relatable aspect to the performance. The students wander in through the audience, while the disciples, who are the leads of the show, sit in the audience and converse. This integration and acknowledgement of the audience gives the show a realistic, everyday air.

The pop culture references bring humor to the show. Honey Boo Boo, Michael Jackson, and Donald Trump are just a few. These references allow the audience to see the parables in a modern viewpoint. A skit about the Kardashians, in which Walczyk, Kleinberg, and McCumber talk about God’s authority and commandments, is hilarious. These touches of pop culture, whether added in one-liners or full-blown parables, are pulled off well.

The parables make up the majority of the show and are done in songs and skits. They are more interesting than expected and have a playful quality. However, there is no real climax to the show and the middle is simply a string of up-beat energetic parables. While still fun to watch, the show lacks depth because there is no over-arching plot.

The songs are the highlight of the show. Each of the disciples has a song and Fritz as Jesus often chimes in as well and performs his own songs. The songs do not have the feeling of a typical musical. Some are pop songs, some country, and others rock.

Horn’s performance of the well-known “Day by Day” does not disappoint, and the company makes it into a large, spirited number. McCumber’s “O Bless the Lord” is another full-cast number that showcases her vocal ability. “Turn Back, O Man” sung by Sullivan is jazzy and smooth, bringing a different element to the show, and “Alas for You” by Fritz brings a rock element. Kleinberg’s “By My Side” is beautiful and sounds like an indie song that could be heard on the radio.

The most impressive element of “Godspell” is the energy of the cast. The disciples play their characters well, hamming it up during the humorous parables, but still showing a full range of emotions. The chorus, though onstage for the whole show and often without a direct purpose, holds onto a contagious energy that is reflected into the audience.

The chorus reacts to the disciples and sings in many of the songs, giving them a fuller quality. Although it may be easy to carry this energy through the enthusiastic parables, the cast retains the energy at the end of the play, when the action becomes serious. This keeps the audience pulled into the show and gives truth to the crucifixion scene.

“Godspell” is not the expected musical. It illuminates the gospel in an engaging and meaningful way. The cast and crew clearly put a lot of effort into making the musical unique. The unusual setting and format of the show make it relatable, just as the pop culture references make it funny. The singing in “Godspell” is phenomenal, the songs vary and the disciples have the talent to pull them off. However, the energy of the cast brings the show to life.

Madison Meyer is an In-Depth Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com