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Preview: BU on Broadway's 'Godspell'

by Noemi Arellano-Summer

Photo Courtesy of Facebook

BU on Broadway’s production of Godspell adds its own touches to the decades-old musical, crafting a show that bursts with bubbly attitudes and standout musical numbers.

“We started [preparing] three and a half months ago,” said Zachary Prescott (QST ‘19), one of the production’s producers, during one of the final dress rehearsals. “It’s going incredibly well, the dancing’s good. We’re sold out! The seats are full for all three nights.”

The show Godspell was originally conceived in 1971 as John-Michael Tebelak’s master’s thesis project for Carnegie Mellon University. After a two-week, 10-performance run at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, it came to the attention of producer Charles Haid, who wanted to run it off-Broadway; it had a successful run from May 1971 to June 1976.

For the students involved in BU’s production, the show begins with a company of eight in a room together, each working on separate activities. John the Baptist (Dylan Herina) enters, calling them to order. He baptizes the company, after which Jesus (Christopher Kuiken, pictured above) enters.

Jesus draws on the faces of the company; indicating that they have become his followers. The rest of Act One is Jesus explaining his teachings through parables, and the company assisting him in acting them out.

At one point, Jesus invites a few members of the audience to help in playing Pictionary and Charades to get his moral across. Parables like Widow and the Judge, the Good Samaritan and Lazarus, as well as others, are told in this way. By the end of the act, this ragtag company has become a community of love.

Act Two takes the upbeat tone of the piece thus far and turns it on its head, covering the Last Supper and the infamous ensuing events.

The musical numbers were the absolute highlight of this production. All eight members of the community have a moment to shine—though “Turn Back, O Man,” “By My Side” and “Finale” were particular standouts.

“It was amazing! The singing was really incredible,” said Flannery Gallagher (CAS ‘20).

The show’s casting also hit the mark. Kuiken’s Jesus was boyishly charming, bringing a soft voice to the role that proved well suited for the character’s gentle, loving teachings. Herina worked hard to fill double roles as John the Baptist in most of Act One and Judas Iscariot throughout Act Two—and he hits important moments with incredible precision.

The rest of the cast was tasked with essentially playing themselves, even taking their own first names for the characters. Their roles are varied and highly involved. None of them are consistently named during the performance—they are simply the community, and they all performed admirably.

The backdrop of the stage was a blackboard; after Jesus explained a teaching through a parable, this teaching would be added in colorful chalk. At the 10-minute intermission, the audience was invited to add their own sayings.

Above the stage, the words, “And God said let there be light. And God saw that the light was good and separated the light from the darkness” were stapled up in different colored letters.

Overall, BU on Broadway’s Godspell was a wonderful Christian rock retelling of certain parables, the Last Supper, and the Crucifixion. The production is running April 27 to 29 in the Student Theater.

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