“Godspell” at Charlotte Country Day School
By Mary Alex Staude
Charlotte Country Day School delivered a stirring rendition of Stephen Schwartz’s musical “Godspell,” a story about community and love composed of anecdotal parables and pantomimed by ensemble members. No character names were given in the program, which let performers embody themselves onstage and connect with the inspiration of the show.
“Godspell” was written to be interpreted in various ways. Productions vary in set design, song order, costuming, musical arrangement, even plot. Some feature a resurrection scene for Jesus Christ, while others simply close with a reprise of the opening number, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”
One uniquely enjoyable aspect of this production was the use of sign language in the popular “Day by Day.” The communion scene displayed a tender and brotherly facet of the Gospel: Christ individually embraced every member of the cast before going to his crucifixion, displaying his personal relationship with each character. The death scene was particularly touching, as a PowerPoint featuring photos of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and other martyred civil leaders reflected on a silhouette of Christ crucified.
The show was produced as an ensemble, with a cast of 26 and only one main role. Each performer had an important scene that let him develop a character with history, flaws and small joys. Most songs featured a particular character, who would then be joined by the rest of the cast midway through.
Jacob Wishnek showed commanding stage presence and contagious likability as Jesus, bringing focus to the production. Jill Levinson and Drew Clevenger gave memorable performances, full of energy and excitement. Mary English Moore and Reevie Walton delivered extraordinary harmony in “By My Side,” silencing the audience in the second act.
Though the production faced technical difficulties, and cast members struggled with some of the vocal components of the show, the overall experience was incredibly enjoyable. The contrast of old-world Bible stories with modern humor and culture created a show that would appeal to all generations.
By bringing the Gospel into the modern day, the production made the parables as touching and relevant as they might have been in their original context. The cast took liberties with the script to add further meaning and humor, bringing the old and the new together into a fun, uplifting show.