Hear the musical gospel of Godspell

Liz Bos

Liz Bos

SDSU students can prepare for some entertainment this week as the Prairie Repertory Theatre brings its summer production of Godspell to Doner Auditorium for a two-day run.

The show, a 1970 musical by Steven Schwartz, opened in Brookings on June 10 and Brandon, S.D., on July 26. It uses a mix of music and comedy to deliver parables of Jesus as well as the Gospel according to Matthew.

“The music is terrific,” said show director J.D. Ackman.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 3 and 4 and admission is free with Student ID. Godspell features a cast of 10, including faculty member Billy Wilburn and junior communications and theatre major Steven Grovenberg.

“It’s a really challenging role but it’s a lot of fun at the same time,” said Grovenberg, who plays Jesus in the show. “It’s a portrayal of the story of Jesus.”

Ackman said the show was chosen because of its appeal to SDSU students and especially freshmen.

“We try to pick a show we think will have the greatest impact for students and introduce new students to what we do,” Ackman said.

Another thing Ackman said makes the show unique is its slapstick comedy, which is utilized in its portrayal of Jesus as having a sense of humor and being a very human person.

“It’s literally Jesus practicing what he preaches and the struggle he has with accepting what he knows has to happen,” Ackman said.

Part of Godspell’s appeal is its freedom regarding set and costume design, as its story does not specify where the action is set. It was originally staged as a hippie musical, but has been produced in many different styles on-and-off-Broadway and around the country.

“It offers the actor and director a lot of good staging possibilities,” Ackman said.

All of the design for Prairie Rep’s show – from the costumes to the sets to the lighting – was done by students. The show’s set is modeled after a war zone, which Ackman said is an attempt to make it look like something local people often see on TV.

“I think it’s some of the best work in each design area that we’ve had students do for a long time,” Ackman said.

Although Godspell does have a religious theme, Wilburn said he liked the show because “it’s not the kind of show that beats you over the head” with its message.

Wilburn does not usually appear in Prairie Rep. shows but said he enjoyed working on Godspell.

“It’s great to be in a show with students,” Wilburn said. “It’s been a wonderful experience for me.”

Ackman said some of the things he likes about the show are its similarities to the Bible and how closely its writers were able to make the story seem fresh and new despite taking place more than 2,000 years ago.

“It’s amazing how they managed to pull all the various parables [from Matthew],” Ackman said. “The show presents them in an approachable way.”

Grovenberg said he enjoyed his role because it was challenging and required a lot of energy to portray Jesus’ works, betrayal by Judas and eventual crucifixion.

“It was a lot of work as a performer; you have to put a lot into it,” Grovenberg said. “The cast is a great group of people and we just work really well together.”

#1.881562:1276283541.jpg:Godspell_05.1.jpg:Jesus (Steven Grovenburg) speaks words of wisdom to Ruthie (Ruthie Pottratz) during a performance of Godspell.:Courtesy Photo