Behind the Scenes of Godspell
March 29, 2016
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“Turn back, O man…Forswear thy foolish ways,” Izzy Archer, sophomore, skillfully crooned, strutting down the Barnstable High School auditorium aisle. As she slunk her way to the stage, the other members of the “Godspell” cast snapped in unison and swung their hips rhythmically to the beat, boom-ba-da-boom. Archer made her way to the stage and then the entire cast engaged in a dance routine with such choreographic integrity that it could be Broadway-bound. After a rigorous jazz routine filled with simultaneous leg circles and hip checks, Archer then conclusively shouted “Forswear thy foolish ways,” thrusted out her arms, and held a melodic note that reverberated throughout the auditorium.
All this work was just for a Tuesday rehearsal of the Barnstable High School Drama Club’s upcoming show, Godspell. Opening night is still a week away but that didn’t stop everyone on stage from giving it all they got. That included synchronized leg kicks, several sets of jazz hands, and perhaps some blood, sweat, and tears.
“Godspell,” a musical that is maily derived from parables based on the Gospel of Matthew, may have seemed like an odd choice for the BHSDC’s spring musical but it goes beyond one’s preconceived ideas. “Godspell is a play that is filled with love, discovery, and community,” Saarah Murphy, senior and president of the BHSDC, stated. “This play is filled with parables that teach life lessons, not religious ideas. I’m Muslim but I’m still able to get the lessons from the religious context without being preached to,” added Murphy.
Heather Lewis, a senior, was a little apprehensive when she first heard the announcement of the spring show. “I had never heard of [“Godspell”] before and was very nervous. But once I listened to the music for a couple weeks and got to know the cast, I was very excited.”
“Godspell” will be Lewis’ second show since joining BHSDC and she feels it to be a perfect one to cap her senior year. “Everyone in the show is very close. We do things outside of the show together and act like a community–just like the show!”
“Hannah Wolfe, the choreographer, has done a fantastic job choreographing the dances. Especially to accommodate the people who haven’t had any dancing background (aka me),” Lewis added. Lewis noted that Wolfe’s talent is impressive considering she’s just a junior.
The high-caliber dances and songs involved in this production warrant a steady and intense rehearsal schedule that the entire cast must stick to.
“We’ve had three-hour practices every day after school ever since we’ve come back from Christmas vacation. The soloists also have extra rehearsals,” Lewis said.
One individual who is discovering the effort involved in this production is sophomore Nora Canaday, who plays the main character, Jesus. “The amount of lines that I have is huge, and since a lot of them are full paragraphs dedicated to teaching the disciples; it’s been hectic trying to memorize lines, as well as learning the dances, practicing the songs, and still trying to keep up with school work and my personal life,” Canaday said. “I’m kind of exhausted, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity for the world.”
When playing Jesus, there comes a lot of pressure and Canaday has had to deal with it in more ways than one. One unique factor audiences can also look forward to when viewing the BHSDC’s production of “Godspell” is the gender-swapped cast; and, while this interesting choice will cause some to flock to the doors, others may be a little hesitant. “I was so scared when the cast list first came out because I was told by another cast member that a very religious friend of theirs had changed their mind about coming to the show when they found out Jesus and Judas were being played by girls,” Canaday said. “But since then, I’ve figured out that in the musical, the character isn’t supposed to be an accurate portrayal of Jesus as he was according to the Bible, but more of a figure to bring the community together through moral teachings and love. We’re more trying to communicate the message of coming together that is associated with Jesus and his disciples, than the people themselves,” Canaday said.
“Every other character is referred to by their real-life name on stage, and, as abstract as that is, every cast member displays their own chosen character traits when they act out the story. The only differences from their real-life selves is that everyone is supposed to be acting like clowns, and some of us break into full song and dance numbers randomly in the show. But, then again, some of the drama kids do that in real life too, myself included,” Canaday joked.
“We expected the cast to be mostly girls from the beginning because that’s simply who tried out. I’ve noticed over the past couple years that boys at our school tend to shy away from auditioning for plays with the BHSDC for the sake of, like, saving their masculinity or something,” Canaday stated. “And then, during their senior year, when they start to grow into their shell and gain more confidence, they audition for a play or musical, and LOVE IT.”
The message to join BHSDC applies to not just boys, (whose presence, once again, would be welcomed with open arms), but to anyone wishing to express their dramatic self or even to expand their friend circle. “The drama club at our school is huge, and there are people in it from every grade and social clique, whether it be the people who act, do the lights, build the sets, or make the music,” Canaday remarked.
“Drama Club is a new type of family that is not just about acting,” Murphy added.
The BHSDC’s production of Godspell opens on Friday, March 18.