Godspell: What it’s really about


Abby Hogan

Soph. Kara Davis remembers holding her phone while nervously counting down the minutes for the cast list to be released. She refreshes her email over and over again. She finally sees the link. She texts her friend to try to calm herself down. 

   She clicks the link open with shaking hands and closed eyes. She refuses to look. She has no clue what to expect. She doesn’t want to know. 

   Suddenly her friend Marta bursts into her room telling her she’s in the cast. She finally looks at the list herself and sees that there are only thirteen people in the cast. And somehow she’s one of them. 

   She hops out of bed and jumps with glee running through the house to tell her mom the news. She’s glad she’s in the show but sad that the others who got callbacks aren’t. 

   Why a show with only thirteen people? Why one that involves Christianity at a public school? These are questions that many students involved in theatre at West Ottawa asked themselves. 

   But while the musical Godspell is outwardly assumed to be a show about Christianity it’s truly about so much more than that. 

  Some students first felt the show wasn’t appropriate to do at a public school. They felt that because the show was based on Christianity some people would say it’s wrong to perform in a public school setting. Most opinions quickly changed.

 “Looking up the musical, I saw that it totally had a religious aspect to it. Needless to say, I wasn’t too optimistic about doing it. But after rehearsing for a while, I stopped associating Godspell with Christianity, but instead hope and renewal. I think that anyone who has the chance to see this show most definitely should. It gave me a different view on the lessons I learned while growing up,” Davis said.

   While Godspell is based on the “Gospel of Matthew”, a lot of the messages from the show are not purely biblical. The show is set on a playground with the cast simply stating their ideas about life.

   Because the show has such a small cast it’s a lot easier for actors to form tight bonds with the whole group. Although a small cast was first seen as odd or unfair because a lot of people didn’t get to be in the show, a small cast was necessary due to COVID-19 restrictions and the nature of the show. 

   “Godspell is an intimate show and the smaller sized cast helps us to identify with each one of the characters’ journeys.  We chose this show because of restrictions placed on our theater department by COVID-19.  By choosing a show with a smaller cast, we’re able to keep everyone safe and in good health,” theater director Joe Huber said.

   While having a small cast can be easier it also comes with challenges. In the show, almost everyone is on stage the whole time. This puts a lot more focus on needing to practice staying present in the scenes at all times. 

   If one person dazes off the whole feeling of a scene can be ruined. At the same time, this gives the actors a better chance to bring their characters to life in a way they normally couldn’t. 

   The show brings a very youthful approach to talking about difficult ideas. Such a youthful approach gives a humorous and refreshing tone. Along with spunky and playful songs, the show also includes a variety of parables. 

   Rather than simply telling stories to the audience; the characters in the parables act things out and even have added sound effects or jokes.

   The parables teach lessons from the Bible.

    “These lessons are taught through the story of a charismatic person who comes upon a group of disparate people, all with different ideas and opinions, which prevent them from forming a supportive community.  Through the telling parables, acted out in hilarious vaudevillian skits and joyous music written by Stephen Shwartz (who wrote Wicked and other popular musicals), the group begins to form a common bond and create a supportive and lasting community.  The authors use lessons pulled from the Bible to support the show’s theme and message,” Huber said.

    There are a lot of opportunities for the actors to put their own twist on these lessons. Improv is often encouraged in rehearsals so the actors can let go of the masks they put up and be their true selves. 

   The show focuses on the good and bad aspects of life and how humans interact. Eventually, Jesus comes and brings the idea of Christianity to these people who need something to believe in. 

   Throughout the show, bonds are formed and people’s ideas are tested. 

   “Although the main character in the show is a Christ-like figure and follows the final days in his life, the show is not overtly religious.  It may be viewed that way by some of our audience members and seen as a fun and entertaining way of reminding ourselves of our best human values to others.  Either way, it is a wonderful evening of theater that leaves audience members feeling a sense of renewed effort to be the best person they can…and to leave singing some really catchy songs,” Huber said.

     People shouldn’t judge the book (or the musical) by its cover. People should come to Godspell with an open mind and an open heart. 

   Whether the show has a cast of thirteen or forty, Godspell truly offers something for everyone whether Christian or not. 

   Show dates for the musical are November 5th, 6th, 12th, and 13th at 7:30 pm and the 7th at 2:30 pm. To purchase tickets use the link: 

West Ottawa Theater Presents: Godspell