Godspell: West Ottawa’s most memorable show yet

Godspell: West Ottawas most memorable show yet

Sidney Hogan

The audience watched as one by one, the cast of West Ottawa’s musical Godpsell climbed onto each other’s backs, forming a human pyramid. With each person added, the stress and excitement on stage and in the audience grew. 

   The cast was still singing as they held the pyramid. Near the song’s end, Soph. Haven March announces that she has to sneeze, leading to the tumbling of the pyramid. 

   Godspell is not a typical musical. Almost the entire script is taken straight from the Bible, and the songs range from high energy dance numbers to emotional duets. The story follows a group of people learning parables from Jesus, played by Soph. Grace Cronkright.  

   Sitting in the audience, I realized almost right away that the show was something completely unexpected. Based on the background information given in promotional materials, I thought I was in for a confusing, Jesus-praising experience. 

   Instead, I watched a community learn to become faithful to their leader. They performed impressive stunts and dances, and though the dialogue didn’t sound like anything that would be spoken today, I felt like I didn’t have to understand to sit back and enjoy the show. 

   Even though the dialogue was hard to understand at some points, I still laughed at the more physical jokes.  A puppet show, a game of charades, and many moments where the cast seems to “play pretend” and act along to what Jesus is saying were used to add humor. Frosh. Caedmon Kephart’s high note during one of the parables was a hit. The sound effects during the puppet show and Lauren Espy’s dialogue in her solo “Turn Back, O Man” had the whole crowd laughing.  

   Sr. Tessie Morales’s stage presence was unmatchable. Through every song and dance number, her energy never wavered. Similarly, Jr. Jackson Field and Soph. Kara Davis gave the show much of its comedic relief. 

   Some songs conveyed hope and love, like Cronkright led “Beautiful City” or Jr. Abby Hogan and Jr. Kira Guirren’s duet “By My Side”. Jr. Kamryn Dumas’ song “All Good Gifts” thanks Jesus for all he’s done. The song “Prepare Ye”, sung by Sr. Emmett Deur, is simple yet beautiful. 

   Though there were many moments of fun, act two takes a darker turn. The audience gets a view of what’s to come when the cast poses as The Last Supper after learning one of the apostles will betray Jesus. This comes as an unexpected twist after all the fun the cast had been having.

   After watching the cast sing, dance, and laugh, this change of tone comes as a shock. The rest of the show until this point had been lighthearted. Now, the end was near. 

   The songs after the news of betrayal also take on a darker tone. There are no more high energy dance numbers, only slower tempo songs, like “On the Willows”, performed by Jr. Marissa Sanchez. 

   “On the Willows” is a melancholy song. It’s another reminder that Jesus is leaving. The cast each take turns saying goodbye to Jesus before his death in the next song.

   “Finale” shows Jesus’ death. Jr. Selah Kephart’s singing of “Long live God” in “Finale” was mournful yet hopeful, perfectly bleeding into the last moments of the show.

   After watching almost two hours of non-stop fun, the end is depressing. Contrary to most musicals, I didn’t feel happier or lighter when I walked out of the theater, even with the more uptempo end to “Finale.”

   Even with the funny dialogue and sad songs, the awkwardness of certain moments of the show seemed unnecessary. Before Jesus dies, Deur performs a strange ten seconds of what can only be described as circus music. Many in the audience didn’t know if they were supposed to laugh at this moment. 

   The slideshow that played in the background in the last moments of the show was a surprise. It was supposed to show images of inclusion, love, and happiness. However, I would have liked to see less stock images and more examples of real love and inclusion from our own community. 

   In the end, I found myself questioning the meaning of the show I had just seen. I still felt the effects of Jesus’ death on the characters. I remembered all of the moments when I laughed, but also the moments when the sadness was palpable. 

   When Godspell was over I was more than impressed. A group of only thirteen people came together to create something one of a kind. 

   If you didn’t attend a show, you missed out. West Ottawa’s theater department has created many successful shows, but Godspell was easily the most impressive in recent years. After the Covid-19 pandemic shut the Performing Arts Center’s doors to all performances, finally being able to sit and laugh at a live show was much needed. 

   The cast and crew of Godspell should be proud of their work. They gave the audience the break from real life they needed. I’m looking forward to seeing future productions from West Ottawa’s theater department.