With 'Godspell,' SAT addresses Jesus as everyman
The Sandy Actors Theatre performance of "Godspell" is a testament to what small, community theater groups can accomplish.
The production may not quite be Broadway caliber, but it engages the audience in a humorous, humbling and — at times — bizarrely entertaining performance.
As the opening song says "We can build a beautiful city. Not a city of angels, but we can build a city of men," the cast did indeed come together to pull off a production not lightly attempted by smaller troupes.
For those unfamiliar with the musical, "Godspell" was originally written by John Michael Tebelak when he was a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
After feeling he'd been ostracized by the church for his appearance, and turned away from service one Sunday, the theatrical flower child decided to put his interpretation of Christianity into words. With music composed by Stephen Schwartz, "Godspell" opened off Broadway in 1971.
Based on the gospel as told by Matthew, the musical answers the question, "What if God was one of us?" by portraying Jesus in a "modern-day" way, walking among everyday people.
Through a series of parables leading up to the death of Christ, the cast weaves a image of what it meant to Tebelak to truly act in a Christ-like way, and highlights the aspects of the Christ story that would admonish those who would cast the first stone.
Sandy Actors Theatre's production's playful quality keeps the religious commentary of the musical from being preachy, while its use of a minimalistic set keeps the performance on message.
The obvious variety of ages and levels of experience in the cast lends a raw and almost more realistic aspect to the performance, making the "disciples'" reactions and individual songs more believably personal.
Overall, the production is exactly as Director Cheryl Rudarmel-Beam said in a past interview: "It speaks to the hearts of even children," in that its campy stylings appeal to audiences young and old.
There is a favorite song for everyone, and the enthusiasm of the cast makes them all enjoyable.
"It's about the foundation of a city, the formation of a family," Rudarmel said of the play as it opened.
You still have three chances to see "Godspell:" 7:30 p.m. Friday or Saturday, June 23 and 24, or 3 p.m. Sunday, June 25. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, veterans and students, and $10 for children, and can be purchased online at sandyactorstheatre.org/osconcert.