La Sierra drama stages 1970s musical “Godspell”

Featuring the work of students from more than 19 different departments, La Sierra University’s production of “Godspell” is an interdisciplinary collaboration and the result of more than 20 weeks of rehearsals that began in January. Directed by psychology Professor Paul Mallery and guest artist and Musical Director Cheryl Smith, this production of what is now considered a classic of musical theater is the best show to grace the Matheson Hall stage.

“Godspell” dress rehearsal. (Front, L to R) Melissa Totton, Heather Aufdemberg, Daniel Perez, Laurel Enix, Kristan Bagani. (Back, L to R) Jorge Villegas, Stephanie Jones, Aaron Aguya, Johnpaul Tekin (photo by Michael J. Elderman).

“Godspell,” a musical based on the Gospel according to Matthew, was first cast in 1970 at Carnegie Mellon University. It is based on a series of parables interspersed with modern music using mainly lyrics from traditional hymns. John Michael Tebelak, who conceived and originally directed the play as part of a master’s thesis project, attended an Episcopal church on Easter morning in 1970. He found it dry and uninspiring, was nearly frisked by a police officer on the way out, and left thinking “There’s got to be something better than this!”  He, along with several of his friends and fellow students in his drama program developed “Godspell” to show “the simple, joyful message” that he saw in the Gospels, and to re-create a sense of community. 

The musical caught the attention of producers who hired Stephen Schwartz to write a new song score and opened it off Broadway. The score proved to be Schwartz’s first of many hits and the recipient of two Grammy Awards --- his future work included songs for “Pocahontas,” “The Prince of Egypt,” and “Wicked." 

“Godspell” appeared on stages in London and Toronto before landing on Broadway in 1976, with a film version appearing in 1973. It has since been produced by numerous universities, production companies, church and school groups. The La Sierra production’s musical styles come from the first three-quarters of the 20th century, with a few updates, and Act I is reminiscent of a revue. 

“Like the King James Bible upon which it is based, “Godspell” strikes a fine balance--recognizing the danger of losing touch with reality if we always sugarcoat the stories we tell or, if we always wallow in misery,” says Marilynn Loveless, the show’s producer and drama program director.

Dates:  May 17; Sun., May 18

Due to sold-out performances, Godspell has been extended with additional shows scheduled for  Thurs., May 22 and Mon., May 26 

Time:  8:30 p.m.

Tickets:  $10 general seating; $15 reserved seats; $7 LSU faculty/staff/students

Box office:  Humanities Hall 102, (951) 785-2241, drama@lasierra.edu

The Matheson Hall box office will open on the evening of performances at 7:45 p.m. except for Sat., May 17 when it will  open at 8:10 p.m.

The Humanities Hall box office has limited hours, closing on the weekend.   We are unable to guarantee same day reservations for a performance.

For more information contact Marilynn Loveless at (951)785-2241 or (951)785-2274.

  • Last update on  September 18, 2014