With the passion of a lone voice crying out in the wilderness, the musical production Godspell comes alive on stage this week as the Northeast State Theater Department’s last spring production.
Godspell opens April 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts, at the main campus, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.
“It is an updated version of the show that moves the message into modern times,” said Elizabeth M. Sloan, the play’s producer and director of Northeast State Theater. “This production incorporates the three skills of dancing, singing, and acting, and our cast has worked very hard to bring it together.”
Created by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, Godspell unfolds as a series of parables, based on the Gospel of Matthew. The cast performs the musical’s well-known songs such as All Good Gifts and By My Side. Set in a gritty streetscape of New York, each parable features modern music set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns to tell the story of Christ’s passion.
“The staging reflects the needs of people, and the separation and alienation they feel today,” said Brad McKenzie, the play’s technical director.
The production features a mix of talent from around the area. Cast and crew are students from Northeast State and East Tennessee State University theater students, and seasoned community actors. The production’s music director, Dr. Kellie Brown, chairs the Music Department at Milligan College.
“We want a collaborative, creative experience for everyone when we do a production,” said Sloan. “Having such a diverse group of people who want to get involved with Northeast State Theater is exciting.”
Directing the show is Brandon Stanbrough, a Northeast State and ETSU alumnus, making his directorial debut for a Northeast State Theater production. Stanbrough noted that of the numerous artistic representations of Christ, an often overlooked version was that of Jesus the advocate who spends time with society’s outcasts.
“It was this same Jesus who takes a rag tag group of disciples and creates a new community,” he said. “Those are the ideas that become the heart of Godspell.”
Portraying Jesus is ETSU Theater major Zach Starnes. A Dobyns-Bennett graduate Starnes portrayed the dual roles of John the Baptist and Judas during a high school production of the musical.
“Switching from Judas to Jesus is quite a task,” said Starnes. “The production is relatable because it presents many of the moral values that are laid down in the Book of Matthew. Everyone should feel comfortable to come see this play.”
McKenzie said the production would be submitted to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival annual competition for 2013. Northeast State Theater’s production of Oedipus Rex won two first-place awards and considerable acclaim at the event held earlier this year.
Performances of Godspell are scheduled April 5-7 at 7:30 p.m. and April 7-8 at 2 p.m. in the WRCPA Theater on the main campus. Tickets are $10 general admission and $8 for students and seniors. Northeast State students with valid student identification get one free ticket. Get tickets now at www.NortheastState.edu.
For more information, contact 423.354.2479 or e-mail emsloan@NortheastState.edu.