Director: Peggy Trecker White
Lead actors: John Sheehan as Jesus; Marisa Wojcikiewicz as John the Baptist/Judas; with Jared Woodson, Carlie Van, Megan Frederick, Allie Santorum, Whitaker Gannon, Blair Bennett, Anita Uwadia, Kate Herman, Zach June, Tiegue Brougham-Cook, Skylar Stevens, Jack Dextraze, Ava Nixon, Peg Hamilton, Taylor Kent, Alyssa Calamari, Sabina Vaughan
The plot: "Godspell" embraces the 21st century in one of the longest-running off-Broadway musicals of all time. The production uses improvisation and contemporary themes to illustrate the parables, bringing these lessons to life through the grand tradition of story theater. Overflowing with energy, this classic comes with a message of tolerance, kindness and hope that resonates just as deeply as the music.
The story behind the show: "Godspell" is a rock musical based on the Gospel of St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak. Several cast albums have been released over the years and one of its songs, "Day By Day" from the original cast album, reached No. 13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the summer of 1972. Tebelak, who had thoughts of becoming an Episcopal minister before he decided to become a theater director, had recently attended an Easter service in Pittsburgh and was struck by the lack of joy and celebration in the service. He was also struck by the number of similarities he observed between a religious service and theatre.
In the Hilton Head Prep rendition, "Godspell" has amassed a cast of 19 urban-clad young people captivated by a gentle and charismatic leader, who leads them on a journey of spiritual awakening. The characters specifically named are Jesus and Judas/John the Baptist. The remaining 17 high school students assume their own offstage first names, with a street-savvy identity deliberately unlike their own.
The production features various musical styles, including rock 'n 'roll, pop, R&B, ragtime, rap and more.
Director's take: "This score is so much fun," Trecker White said. "And as the message of the show is about expressing joy and sharing in a common experience, theatergoers will feel the same joy and generosity in the audience as they do on stage. We are also playing around a little bit with technology, using old TV sets to sort of represent what we throw away for the new and updated and how we might consider the beauty in what is old and what is renewed. This goes for things, and definitely for people. Audrey Hepburn said it, but it seems like the sentiment of 'Godspell' and could even have been found in the book of Matthew, 'People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.' We want everyone to leave this theater feeling connected and maybe even a little revived."
Behind the scenes: "The set is an abstract version of an urban basketball court. The outlines of the court are on a rake so that the most upstage point is almost three feet off the floor," Trecker White said. "The kids have been having a great time getting used to walking down these rather narrow ramps. The set gives us so many opportunities for various levels of play. We're especially hoping, too, that their basketball skills are good enough to make the ball into the net in front of a full house. In addition to the court, we have more than 70 old-school TVs. How these will be used throughout the show is a mystery."
Run dates: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20-22; 2 p.m. Feb 23
Ticket prices: $20 for adults; $15 for seniors; and $10 for students
Location: Hilton Head Island High's Seahawk Cultural Center, 70 Wilborn Road, Hilton Head Island
Contact for tickets: www.hhprep.org, 843-341-9182