Clark’s drama department is performing their own version of “Godspell,” a rock opera based on well-known parables and the last days of Jesus as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew.
Director and producer, Howard Gene Biby, says the musical is a series of parables teaching how people should treat each other and interact with the world.
Since the musical first hit the stage in 1971, it has been envisioned by different directors, going as far as the cast dressed as clowns.
Every play is unique, the producer and director making their own changes, however they are usually small. The biggest update to Godspell was in 2012, which is sometimes called the “revival version.”
“I’m not sure the lyrics are vastly different, but the orchestration has been updated so that it sounds more contemporary,” Biby said.
The biggest change is the addition of the song, Beautiful City. Cultural references were also updated for a contemporary audience can relate to the material, Biby said.
Although the author said producers and directors have the freedom to adjust parts of the plays, opinions vary on the changes from the 1971 original to contemporary versions.
“It’s like the Star Wars debate,” he said. “Some say nothing can beat the original trilogy while others feel the more recent versions are better.”
“There are so many moving parts,” he said. “My experience is that it has been easier to produce and direct a musical at the same time.”
However Biby is not alone, he is joined by Assistant Director Ryan Larson and Vocal Director April Duvic a retired music department professor.
Biby says the 17 songs are catchy and memorable, something a good musical should have.
“I like the music,” Duvic said. “There are so many wonderful solos in Godspell, every cast member can be featured and ‘let their light shine.’”
Duvic has served as rehearsal pianist and assistant vocal director for Godspell twice already, once at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon.
“The show is also very much an ensemble work and most of the songs rely on the chorus to support the soloists,” she said.
The characters of Jesus and Judas remain whereas other cast members play “character archetypes like Colin Smith who plays a “stoner.”
Smith performed in several musicals in high school and has taken a break for a few years. Godspell is his first show.
“The music in this show is very difficult compared to other musicals I’ve participated in, but so much fun to perform,” he said.
Smith and Biby both feel that the play builds community within the cast members. Actors perform around soloists and songs rely on the chorus to support the soloists.
“A few direct interactions mean this is a show that will really make the audience feel like a part of that community too,” Smith said.