Just in time for Easter, Northeast State Community College’s Department of Theater will cast a “Godspell” on audiences with its production of the popular Broadway musical, opening Thursday.
Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m., April 5 and 6; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., April 7; and 2 p.m., April 8 in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts on the college’s main campus, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville.
“It is an updated version of the show that moves the message into modern times,” said Elizabeth Sloan, director of Northeast State Theater and the play’s director. “This production incorporates the three skills of dancing, singing and acting, and our cast has worked very hard to bring it together.”
Created by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak, “Godspell” unfolds as a series of parables, based on the Gospel of Matthew. Set in a gritty streetscape of New York, each parable features modern music set primarily to lyrics from traditional hymns to tell the story of Christ’s passion, including such well-known songs as “All Good Gifts” and “By My Side.”
“The staging reflects the needs of people, and the separation and alienation they feel today,” said Brad McKenzie, the play’s technical director.
The production features a mix of talent from around the area. Cast and crew include students from Northeast State and East Tennessee State University’s theater departments as well as seasoned community actors. The production’s music director, Dr. Kellie Brown, chairs the Music Department at Milligan College.
“We want a collaborative, creative experience for everyone when we do a production,” Sloan said. “Having such a diverse group of people who want to get involved with Northeast State Theater is exciting.”
Making his directorial debut at Northeast State is Brandon Stanbrough, a Northeast State and ETSU alumnus. Stanbrough noted that of the numerous artistic representations of Christ, an often overlooked version is that of Jesus the advocate, who spends time with society’s outcasts.
“It was this same Jesus who takes a ragtag group of disciples and creates a new community,” Stanbrough said. “Those are the ideas that become the heart of ‘Godspell.’ ”
Portraying Jesus is Zach Starnes, a theater major at ETSU. Starnes, who graduated from Dobyns-Bennett, portrayed the dual roles of John the Baptist and Judas during a high school production of “Godspell.”
“Switching from Judas to Jesus is quite a task,” he said. “The production is very relatable because it presents so many of the moral values that are laid down in the Book of Matthew. Everyone should feel comfortable to come see this play.”
McKenzie, the technical director, said the production would be submitted to the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival annual competition for 2013. Northeast State Theater’s production of “Oedipus Rex” won two first-place awards and considerable acclaim at the competition held earlier this year.
Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors. Northeast State students with valid student identification get one free ticket. Tickets can be purchased online at www.Northeast-? State.edu? .
For more information, call Northeast State’s Department of Theater at (423) 354-2479 or email emsloan@Northeast-? State.edu? .