The play that started as a college senior project to share the joy of the Gospel almost 50 years ago has found its way back onto a college campus through Lipscomb University’s Homecoming performance of Godspell, depicting the life and teachings of Jesus through a fun-filled, creative new staging.
The musical will begin showing on Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Collins Auditorium, and will show on Nov. 3, 4, 9, 10 and on the final day of Homecoming weekend, Nov. 11 at 2:30 p.m.
“All of the parables are taught in the style of improvisational clowning games and theatre games,” said Scott Baker, director of marketing and recruiting for the George Shinn College of Entertainment & the Arts. “It uses all of these different traditional commedia dell'arte and vaudeville style gags and theatre tricks: impressions, juggling, pratfalls, sight gags, magic tricks, sleight of hands and such to entertain the audience and to give the group something to coalesce around.”
As the director of the Homecoming musical, Baker said he is excited because this particular musical combines his two passions.
“I have been a theatre practitioner for the past 20 years. I’ve been an actor, a singer, a director, a designer, but my master’s degree is in theology. The intersection of faith and art is my area of expertise and its one of my primary passions.”
Because of this loose concept idea, Baker, and others that perform this musical, are able to take their own spin on the play such as portraying modern celebrities, or adding in a juggling act.
When John-Michael Tebelak created Godspell, he focused on the joy in telling the story of Christ and the formation of Christian community. Tebelak did not write a strict script that future performers would follow, but instead created a loose idea for the musical, leaving room for performers to bring their own interpretation.
Tebelak wrote Godspell for a senior project by finding bits and pieces from the gospels and songs from the book of common worship. Baker said the original production included an improvisational music performance, but when it was time to take the play to New York, another lyricist Stephen Schwartz, who also wrote Pippin and Wicked, gave it a professional finish with new lyrics and music.
Lipscomb’s depiction of Godspell will utilize a 2012 revision by Schwartz in this performance, but it will still have the main concepts, joy in the telling of Christ and the formation of Christian community Tebelak designed. Baker has also added a personal touch to the setting of the musical.
“When the Gospel first came it was embraced by women and slaves, those at the bottom of society in the Roman world, as good news, very good news,” said Baker. “It was not received that way by the wealthy and powerful. The play is set in a way that allows the audience to understand that it is good news being brought to people at the bottom and that the Gospel is not limited to notions of prosperity or security, but that it’s good news the reaches us wherever we are – and out of that can come joy and community formation.”
Baker encourages Lipscomb students from the past and present to attend the musical, as well as others in the community without a connection to Lipscomb. He said the musical provides an educational piece about the life and teaching of Jesus, and an interesting conversation piece for all.
“As a broader American community, the show has a very pointed message for how we deal with and how we treat the least of these among us,” said Baker. “This is a conversation we need to have in ever more real ways.”
Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $10 for faculty/staff/alumni, and $5 for students. University students receive one free ticket per show. For tickets, click here.