Entertainment

Are You There, God?

A religious musical has a message for all audiences

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The Gospel of Matthew may have been written 2,000 years ago, but his stories of compassion bear repeating. When set to a ‘70s folk-rock score with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Wicked), they cast quite a Godspell. The hit show, conceived by John-Michael Tebelak, opened in ’71 and continues to spellbind audiences. Though a recent revival closed on Broadway this June, you can catch the classic musical at the Granite Theatre in Westerly from October 12-November 18.

“One of the most special elements of this particular production has been the camaraderie amongst the cast and crew,” director Michael Farrelly observes. “The rehearsal process has been full of laughter and dedication to the process. We have an ensemble that truly complements each other’s work.” Members of that ensemble are eager to share their thoughts on what makes the play so enchanting.

“If this is your first Godspell experience, get ready!” enthuses Kaitie Hartman, in her Granite Theatre debut as Joanne. “This show is full of joy, hope and hilarity.”

Taryn Mallard-Reid, playing the role of Robin, offers, “It’s really fun for the audience, the characters are relatable, the music is catchy and it has universal moral lessons. Even though this is a show about Jesus, you don’t have to be a religious person to appreciate its message of love, peace, kindness and acceptance.”

Edward Benjamin III portrays Jesus. He notes, “We 10 actors cry together, laugh together, improv and share things that not many casts share. ight is definitely shining onstage and we hope that our infectious nature and our message reaches out to all who come to see it.”

Godspell actually marks Benjamin’s second casting as Jesus, having previously starred in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. While the representation differs in each play, Benjamin feels a similar burden of responsibility in tackling such an iconic part. He explains, “In some ways, Jesus was the original superhero. The original rock star. To thes people that he gathered, he was something to believe in... He was a light, a beacon, a symbol of good.”

Benjamin wishes every actor the challenge and opportunity to play Jesus, saying, “It truly changes you and opens your heart and your mind.”

Godspell’s themes remain relevantas ever. Nicholas Mikkelsen, who plays Jeffrey, suggests, “In the hustle and bustle of today’s society, we get wrapped up in instant results and watching out for only ourselves and immediate family. What this show has to offer is a view of strangers from all walks of life forming a community and growing together with the help of one another.”

Benjamin seconds this, noting, “I really hope that everyone walks away from this production with a renewed sense of self and a renewed sense of being. We are all part of a greater whole.”

Mallard-Reid adds, “Love your neighbor, be kind to others even if they are unkind to you, celebrate life and do your best to be a better person. These are lessons we teach our children everyday and, no matter how old we are, we must always be reminded to be the best we can be.”

Hartman sums up, “This show isn’t about necessarily believing in God; it’s about believing in ourselves as a community – that we can achieve anything we set our minds to.”

Sounds magical, doesn’t it? See you there.