The Student News Site of Westmont College

The Horizon

The Student News Site of Westmont College

The Horizon

The Student News Site of Westmont College

The Horizon

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Godspell: A review

Noah Nims

Whimsically humorous, vocally impressive, heartwarming and equally heart-wrenching, Westmont’s production of Godspell, directed by Mitchell Thomas, served a whirlwind of emotions addressing faith and community. The band, Erin Bonski, Jed Eberhard, Davis Peterson and Ryan Daedler, added to the music’s authenticity and the audience’s smooth transition into this biblical conversation. The cast’s energetic and heartfelt performances, combined with the colorful set design by Jonathan Hicks truly made the work of these talented artists pop. The performances spanning from Oct. 12-15 were swiftly sold out, and Porter Theatre just as quickly became a packed house. Godspell, a 70’s rock musical composed by John-Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schidartz is loosely based upon the content of The Gospel According to Matthew. Among the disciples striving to faithfully accept Jesus’s invitation, Jesus (Ford Sachsenmaier) interacts with them, shepherds them and witnesses relevant corruption issues in their community. 

The contemporary musical opens with Sachsenmaier’s gloriously delivered sermon as Jesus transitions from an assertive tone to that of a loving father. Introducing the ensemble of disciples in a series of energetic choreographies choreographed by the talented Christina McCarthy, “Tower of Babble” sets the exuberantly chaotic theme of the ensemble in nearly all acts. Such as crowd favorites “Save The People” and “Light of The World,” the actors resembled goofy children playing in what can be described as an abandoned playground. Hick’s scenic design included a swing set, a scaffold-like structure and trash cans scattered on the stage before graffiti-covered walls. Lighting designer Josh Martinez-Davis, added to the environment and tone with, for example, the repetitive flashing of the words “LOVE” in the musical number “We Beseech Thee” (that Asher Hammer impressively sang and was able to express with renewed joy every show). 

One of the distinct elements adding fun variety was Lynne Marie Martens’s 70’s fashion costume designs that purposefully accentuated the unique personalities of the disciples established by the actors. For example, in the opening jazz song of act two, Jordyn Clinton’s stunning performance of “Turn Back, O Man” is flaunted further with, not only Clinton’s gestures and confident strides, but her denim jumpsuit tied together fashionably with a red patterned ribbon at her waist. Thomas’s directions that further depicted the liveliness of these characters was the joyful approach to the parables he took, especially in Jake’s hilarious army formation skit that heavily depended on Siaki’s improv when gathering the disciples for another teaching of Westmont’s old time favorite, The Prodigal Son. Every night was an opportunity for Jake to command attention through Simon Says, Hokey Pokey or the Cha Cha slide. Emily Derr and Alaina Dean also owned the room through their solos and incredible stage presence. The power and confidence emitted in their performances alone enhanced Derr’s wise warning and Dean’s praise of the Lord.  

Earlier in act one, invoking hope among the people of God, “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” sung by Shawn Yoshitani as John the Baptist, shifts to an act of reverence to Jesus as he kneels before the Lord and washes his feet. These vulnerable portrayals of devotion and admiration are seen notably in Bailey Hall’s solo in “Day by Day ” as she openly approaches Sachsenmaier’s Jesus. Maegan Randolph’s solo in “By My Side ” in act two displays vulnerability as she desperately reaches her hand out to a retreating Jesus. In that same song, Judah (Yoshitani) and Maegan (Randolph) chillingly foreshadow Judas’s betrayal, which leaves the audience with a sinking feeling in their stomach. When reunited, Sachsenmaier’s Jesus expresses his forgiveness in a melancholic, fatherly embrace and kisses both of Judas’s cheeks when he resignedly arrives to arrest Jesus. One of the last scenes in act two that was undoubtedly seared into the audience’s mind was the heartbreaking crucifixion of Jesus in the number “Finale.” Sachsenmaier did a phenomenal job portraying the exclamation of pain and sorrow felt in his wailing of, “Oh God, I’m dying” and the disciples’ echo of “Oh God, you’re dying” as they desperately clung to the walls in a dance of grief beside him. 

This production of Godspell provided a bright-eyed and lively perspective to Jesus’s good news, with a surprise discovered every show day. Comprising engaging dance numbers, intermission entertainment, a humorous puppet show and an interactive game of charades. The shift in tone was artistically executed as act two’s crucifixion scene left the returning audience members contemplating the question, “Why am I crying at this scene again?” stage Manager Georgia Keith reflects. With a spectacular balance between vocal and acting quality, the ensemble brings a never-done-before rendition of the musical that invokes questions and calls for communities to be united in love and graciousness in the wake of Jesus’s grace and sacrifice.

Don't miss out!
Subscribe To The Horizon Newsletter

Sign up to receive weekly highlights of our favorite articles from News, Sports, Arts & Entertainment and more! 


Invalid email address
You can unsubscribe at any time.
Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Horizon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *