BWW Feature: GODSPELL at Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School
Congratulations to all the schools that participated in this year's Nebraska High School Theatre Awards, and to all the ones that were nominated! Here's a spotlight on one high school musical with unique qualities based on freedom of expression, and executed an open-ended script. This production of Godspell was recognized by the Nebraska High School Theatre Awards for Outstanding Ensemble:
A Look Back On Daniel J. Gross High School's Godspell
Prepare Ye the Way
The opening act of Gross High School's production of Godspell debuted representations of philosophical ideologies throughout history which transitions into the "Tower of Babble," cleverly juxtaposing the idea of existentialism and esoteric methodologies. With a new, radical philosophy of truth: the good news. Enter Jesus-the antagonist and antidote to the carnal misgivings of humanity. Jesus is as dynamic as revolutionary that he inspires a following to carry out his theology and continue on his legacy of love and brotherhood.
Director Becca Jackson York described the production and how the narrative develops. "The subtext of the production is that in Act I you're building a community, Act II is the passion of the Christ, and really the end of the show is how can this community go on when their leader is gone, what have they taken from that, and how can they move on."
Symbolism is also prevalent throughout. "[Even in the details of the cross] there is this minutiae of symbolism," said Jackson York, referencing the fourteen stations of the cross.
A steampunk realm sets the scene of the musical as a charismatic ensemble of vaudeville-esque circus like characters build a community of faith centered on the ethos and morals of truth. Stories of biblical principle are brought to remembrance by the cast, reminding them to hold fast to the age old adages of the golden rule and "an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth," mentality, all the while rooted in love and forgiveness.
Raps, finger snaps, and beats denote vignettes of strong imagery depicting parables from the Gospel. Pop references and improv made the theatrical interpretation of parable and scripture all the more fun, modernized in jest to relate to this generation. The use of comedy, pop culture references, and pantomime was a prominent theme throughout to tell the narrative.
From syncopated rhythms to full on melodic ballads, to well choreographed chorus numbers, Godspell was enlightening and inspiring. Seamless and smooth transitions fluidly segued into knockout, bring down the house numbers such as "Bless the Lord," "Learn Your Lessons Well," and the Fosse inspired "Turn Back O Man," which paid homage to a groovy dance era. The dance and song reflected this with choreographed, organic movement translating nuanced themes of symbolism in the Gospel.
Godspell, in essence, is the quintessential dramatization of parabolic teachings. It's campy and wacky in nature, yet endearing and sustainable in its tropes of wisdom and allegorical foundations of the Gospel. If traditional religion is stagnant and irrelevant, then Godspell's intent is to break through those barriers of liturgical conformity and reinvent Episcopal hymns and parables of wisdom to shed a new light on Christian theology. Godspell accomplishes its simplistic yet unabashedly powerful message overcoming evil with love.
God Save the People
Sam Buck, who played Jesus, gave a solid and captivating performance. Buck embodied the very likeness of the central character and was in essence every bit the persona of Jesus through succinct actions and stylized movement. His raw, emotive portrayal painted Jesus in a humanistic, modern, and relatable light that makes it that much more relative to this generation.
For Buck it was a dream role come true. "I am truly blessed to be playing Jesus, at a Catholic school, on Lent, with all of my closest friends."
A notable moving number was "Beautiful City," which inspires a following of disciples to build a legacy on the teachings of Jesus long after his crucifixion.
The musical Godspell draws a direct parallel between the parables and nuanced themes of the Gospel. It expands the paradigm of philosophy versus religion. It opens the mind as well as the heart, all owing to the universal themes of love to transcend above all else.