‘Oh happy day’ Godspell at YSU

Cast members of “Godspell,” rehearsing.

By Jessica Stamp

Dana School of Music is showcasing the musical, “Godspell,” which was originally composed by Stephen Schwartz in the 1970s’. The musical will reference the 2012 revival version which is about Jesus’ parables and stories. 

Adam Howard, lecturer of musical theater and director, said he wanted to emphasize that “Godspell” is not a religious piece and the focus of the musical is on the people around Jesus.

“Everyone knows ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and that focuses on Jesus the man,” Howard said. “But Jesus in ‘Godspell,’ it focuses on his ability to tell stories, to make a point and all the other characters on stage with him are not characters from the Bible. They’re just a bunch of people basically playing out and acting out the parables in creative ways.”

Howard said the cast wanted to reconnect with each other after what people went through during the COVID-19 pandemic. To him, the musical is more about humanism than Christianity.

With a cast of 10 members, students can look forward to seeing a pit orchestra and actors playing instruments on stage.

Kent Engelhardt, coordinator of Jazz Studies, is conducting the pit orchestra and making sure the music is on pace. 

“I make sure that everything is happening at the right time with the music: the entrance, the tempos, the volume, everything like that,” Engelhardt said. “So that all the folks on stage can do their parts and sing and speak and do all the things they do very well.”

Engelhardt said the pit orchestra will play music like a rock band with three guitar players, electric bass, drums, organ, piano and mandolin.

Engelhardt said he hopes students will enjoy the music.

“There’s a lot of songs that people are gonna go ‘Yeah, that’s a really nice tune. I like that’ or ‘Boy, that was really rockin,’” Engelhardt said. “Some of [the pieces] are lyrical and kind of quiet. Other ones are like, in your face with screaming distortion guitars. So, it runs the gamut as far as sound is concerned.”

Katherine Garlick, associate professor in the theatre department, is in charge of costume design and creates any outfits needed for the University’s Theatre productions.

Garlick said there was much more research and hands-on work with the actors to come up with their costume’s design than the other shows Garlick has designed for because of the contemporary approach of the musical. 

“[Howard] wanted to do a really contemporary take on ‘Godspell’ and really make the characters feel like real people,” Garlick said. “There was a lot of work on collaborating with the actors and so the way I designed this is a little different than how you design other shows.”

Garlick said they had a specific color palette and needed to make sure that the styling fit the palette. The actors also had plenty of input into the final look and design to find the right look of the character. 

“We’ve got a really tight color palette and then when the actors came in for their fittings, we did a lot of styling,” Garlick said. 

Garlick also said Howard uses many pop culture references in the musical to make it different from the 1970’s version. 

“Godspell” will be performed at Ford Theater in Bliss Hall on Nov. 11, Nov. 12, Nov. 18 and Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. as well as Nov. 13 and Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.

Tickets can be bought online at tix.com or at the box office in Bliss Hall. 

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